Ministry of Health: Increase in Israeli women diagnosed with HIV

Country-of-origin data in the ministry’s study showed 38% of the subjects with the condition came from the former Soviet Union and that 28% were Israeli-born.

By DAVID DIMOLFETTA
July 17, 2019 04:22
3 minute read.
3D print of HIV surface protein gp120. An antibody also is attached at the top (green and blue). Whe

3D print of HIV surface protein gp120. An antibody also is attached at the top (green and blue). When antibodies stick to viruses, they may prevent or limit infection of host cells. . (photo credit: NIH)

There has been an increase in the number of women diagnosed as HIV carriers in Israel, according to preliminary data on the year 2018 published Tuesday by the Ministry of Health’s Department of Tuberculosis and AIDS.

Some 142 women were considered carriers in 2018, as opposed to 115 women in 2017 – an almost 24% increase.

The data also presents an overall “modest” increase in the number of adults aged 15 or higher diagnosed as carriers for the second year in a row. Between 2013 and 2016, there was a decline in observed cases.

Women are disproportionately affected by HIV due to “unequal cultural, social and economic status in society,” according to Avert, an organization committed to spreading knowledge and understanding of HIV and AIDS.

“Intimate partner violence, inequitable laws and harmful traditional practices reinforce unequal power dynamics between men and women, with young women particularly disadvantaged,” the Avert website says. “HIV is not only driven by gender inequality, but it also entrenches gender inequality, leaving women more vulnerable to its impact.”

In the study, 425 adult carriers were infected with the virus and six of those carriers belong to a risk group in which the diagnosis derived from a transfer of mother to child and was later discovered after birth.

People living in Israel who tested positive for the virus were considered carriers in the analysis. Tourists or carriers from the Palestinian Authority were not accounted for.

Country-of-origin data in the ministry’s study showed 38% of the subjects with the condition came from the former Soviet Union and that 28% were Israeli-born. Of this data, almost all Israeli-born carriers were males, while more than half of immigrants from Equatorial Africa and those of the former Soviet Union were women.

Additionally, a large increase was recorded in the number of heterosexual carriers, which is “related to continued immigration from Eastern European countries,” according to the report.

Data from 2017 shows one million people in Russia live with HIV, according to Avert. The organization says Russia’s HIV epidemic is growing, with the rate of new infections “rising by between 10 and 15% each year.” In Russia, an estimated 250 people become infected with HIV every day.

Russia has no nationally implemented, comprehensive sexual education program for schools. Chastity is often emphasized with the usage of condoms and protection considered to be “controversial,” the site says on HIV statistics in Russia.  

Legislation passed in Russia in 2013 prohibited “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors” and has led to the arrest and harassment of organizations “led by, and working with, men who have sex with men and LGBTI people,” according to Avert.

Similar repressive laws have been passed or are being debated in other former Soviet states.

Miri Kavensky, an HIV activist who has shared her own journey with the disease before multiple audiences, told The Jerusalem Post in February that the stigma formed about HIV in the 1990s “has not been broken.”

“People are supposed to be so happy when they’re in their 20s, since it’s a time of new experiences, developing and learning who you are,” she said, telling the story of when she contracted the condition from her partner who failed to tell her he was a carrier. “I always felt like I had this incredibly heavy burden around my neck, which was a product of the social stigma.”

Ministry of Health spokesman Eyal Basson said the ministry advises the use of contraceptives in any casual intercourse.


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