Ministry denies report of jump in HIV carriers

Ministry spokesman says, "the ministry is unaware of any 50% increase in carriers during the last two weeks."

The Health Ministry dismissed on Monday a statement by the Israel AIDS Task Force claiming that 19 new HIV carriers a "50 percent increase" over the usual figure were discovered during the past two weeks. Dr. Gideon Hirsh, the new director of the task force, met in July at the Third International AIDS Research Conference in Rio de Janeiro with Dr. Peter Piot, undersecretary of the the UN and head of UNAIDS. Piot wrote to Health Minister Dan Naveh on August 16, stressing that Israel must take action by boosting prevention of the spread of HIV through an information campaign. Hirsh said he had been recommending such a step for a long time, but that the ministry "rejected" the suggestion. According to a ministry spokesman, Yair Amikam, "The ministry is unaware of any 50% increase in carriers during the last two weeks. Updated statistics were routinely presented to all those who deal with AIDS, including the task force." Amikam added that, as for an information campaign, the ministry's policy during the past five years has been to cooperate fully with the task force, which thus "shares responsibility if the figures are true." He charged that a once-fruitful cooperation with the voluntary organization had recently deteriorated due to a change in the task force's management, which had acted "in a brutal way and far from reality and fact in the field."