World AIDS Day.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
There was a “significant decline” in the rate of new HIV carrying LGBT men aged 15 to 64 who were last year reported as becoming HIV carriers, the Health Ministry reported in advance of World AIDS Day on December 1.
There were 125 new carriers in 2011 compared to 148 four years before. Even though Israel’s rate of HIV carriers among homosexuals is lower than in most of Western Europe and after years of ministry interventions to prevent infection, the health authorities decided in 2013 to jointly launch with homosexual groups a comprehensive national program to fight aids in the gay community.
However, Rambam Medical Center in Haifa reported that, while the number of new Israeli LGBT carriers in general has declined, the rate of carriers among Arab homosexuals is up. Rambam’s AIDS clinic – one of the largest in the country – said that this year it has treated 988 patients, of them 78 new carriers. Most of them were aged 18 to 60, but there were 62 below the age of 18 and 82 aged 60 to 70 and 26 who were septuagenarians or older.
The national plan included the opening of additional AIDS testing centers, distribution of condoms at locations frequented by gays, media campaigns on the Internet and activities involving homosexual teens. Dr. Daniel Chemtob, head of the ministry’s TB and AIDS department, said that recent years have seen close cooperation between the ministry and LGBT organizations so resources could be pooled.
“The rate decline is encouraging, but we must continue our intensive efforts to reduce infection in men who have sex with men including future preventive treatment before exposure with PrEP.”
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) is when people at very high risk for HIV take medicines daily to lower their chances of getting infected.
Dr. Yuval Livnat, director of the Israel AIDS Task Force, added that his organization opened a new HIV testing center in south Tel Aviv a year ago, and a new one will soon open in Beit Hakehilot in Haifa.