World AIDS Day.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
While the Health Ministry has presented a relatively rosy picture of AIDS, including the fact that the number of new HIV carriers has declined, a Rambam Medical Center AIDS expert said the situation is not that simple.
Prof. Eduardo Shahar, head of the hospital’s immunology, allergy and AIDS center, said on Sunday -- the eve of World AIDS Day -- that more patients are being diagnosed at a later stage and are taking risks because they think drugs solve their problem.
Shahar said that “in the world, there are visions of an AIDS-free generation in a few years. This would supposedly be achieved with a “90-90-90 vision -- of 90 percent of carriers diagnosed, 90% treated with the protease inhibitor “cocktail” and the virus suppressed in 90% of them” within five years, by 2020. This, claim some activists and doctors, would be achieved by health education, promoting AIDS awareness and focusing medical treatment on the creating of an AIDS-free generation.”
But the Rambam expert said that phenomena similar to those in the early age of AIDS, in the last two decades of the 20th century,are returning, with more people having unprotected sex.
Rambam experts go out to university and college campuses to try to educate young people about AIDS, said Shahar. Some sectors who become infected with the virus, he continued, do not take the AIDS threat seriously, thinking that the medication in the basket of health services prevents infection 100%; in fact, it makes it more a chronic condition than a fatal one. In fact, said Shahar, “this is absolutely false.”
At Rambam’s AIDS center in 2014, 1,305 HIV carriers -- including infants, children, women and men, some of them as old as 85 -- are being treated. In the past 12 months, the number of new cases at the center was 110 patients, which reflects an increase of 10% over the previous year, said Shahar. Among them, there is a 20% increase of HIV carriers among immigrants from the former Soviet Union and minorities.
The ministry did not comment on this directly, but it released before World AIDS Day on December 1 a “new national plan together with voluntary organizations dealing with HIV and homosexual activist groups.” After a series of meetings with these groups, the ministry decided to “join forces with them.”
The program will allocate a “special budget aimed at preventing HIV infection among men who have sex with men, reducing high-risk behavior, improving early diagnosis and medical followup and creating a supportive and protective environment for homosexual youths” in this group. It will in the coming weeks organize HIV testing at mobile centers, hand out free condoms at gay events and use the digital media, the ministry maintained.