by Maria Giovanna Faiella
They discovered that they had contracted the HIV virus when they already had AIDS or were close to this stage. Knowing this early allows you to immediately access treatment and have a life similar to those who don’t have HIV. 1 December World AIDS Day: ISS toll-free telephone (9am-7pm); free tests offered by associations
In our country there are still too many, and increasing, late diagnoses of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). According to data from the Istituto Superiore di Sanit, in 84 percent of cases the virus is transmitted through sexual intercourse not protected by a condom. Yet the infection can be prevented as well as, in case of contagion, it is possible to discover it early by taking an HIV test if one has behaved at risk, so as to start antiretroviral therapies immediately. Today, those who discover they have contracted the infection can have a similar life expectancy to those who do not have HIV.
Hence the importance of being informed, as is reiterated once again on the occasion of World AIDS Day, which occurs on December 1st. Various initiatives have been organized in numerous Italian cities, including the distribution of free self-tests. The AIDS and sexually transmitted infections helpline of the Istituto Superiore di Sanit – free and anonymous telephone counseling service – active from 9am to 7pm.
New diagnoses: in 6 out of 10 cases the disease is already in an advanced stage
Every day around five people contract HIV. After more than a decade of constantly decreasing trends, in the two years after the pandemic (2021 and 2022) a new increase in HIV incidence was observed, notes the Istituto Superiore di Sanit in the Report published on the occasion of the world day.
In 2022, there were 1,888 new diagnoses of HIV infection (1,770 in 2021), equal to an incidence of 3.2 new diagnoses per 100 thousand residents, however lower than the average (5.1) of other countries of European Union.
How contagion occurs
Even in 2022, as has been the case for several years, the highest number of diagnoses attributable to sexual transmission: 84 percent.
Furthermore, the Institute’s report indicates, almost six out of ten people who discovered in 2022 that they had contracted the HIV virus were in an advanced stage of the disease, that is, with a seriously compromised immune situation or, even, already had AIDS (syndrome from acquired immunodeficiency).
This delay in diagnosis, however, as the ISS experts point out, affects the effectiveness of antiretroviral therapy which is inferior and, furthermore, increases the probability of transmitting HIV, without being aware of it, as adequate protection is not used. .
an unacceptable fact given that for years science has provided us with therapeutic tools capable of making the virus non-transmissible and of ensuring that people with HIV have life prospects in line with the general population, say ten associations involved in the fight against HIV in Italy – ANLAIDS, Arcigay, ASA Milan, CICA, Mario Mieli Homosexual Culture Club, LILA, Milan Check Point, Nadir, NPS Italia, PLUS -, who on the occasion of World Day ask to reopen the public debate in Italy on HIV. And they are relaunching the U=U Impossible to Make Wrong campaign, a formula adopted throughout the world which translates into immediate language what scientific evidence has demonstrated: people who live with HIV and have reached an undetectable viral load thanks to a Effective antiretroviral therapy cannot transmit the virus, even through unprotected sexual intercourse.
How HIV is transmitted
HIV can only be transmitted through biological fluids – blood and its derivatives, semen and vaginal secretions, breast milk – of an HIV-positive person who is unaware or who is not on effective antiretroviral therapy.
The transmission routes are therefore:
• sexual, through hetero or homosexual relationships not protected by an effective prevention method such as a condom; However, coitus interruptus, the use of the contraceptive pill, the diaphragm, the vaginal ring and the spiral do not protect against infection;
• blood: exchange of syringes or sharing of instruments for the use of psychoactive substances; transfusions of contaminated blood (today it is extremely unlikely to contract HIV infection through a transfusion as blood units are subjected to mandatory screening with the consequent elimination of those tested positive for HIV);
•vertical: from HIV-positive mother to newborn during pregnancy, at the time of birth and, more rarely, through breastfeeding.
How HIV is not transmitted
HIV is not transmitted through saliva, tears, handshakes, urine, mosquito bites, nor by sharing the same dishes, nor by frequenting bathrooms, gyms, swimming pools and other places of social life (work, schools, means of transport, restaurants ), n with caresses and kisses.
It is not transmitted through the instruments used by the dentist, as they are sterilized or disposable.
How to prevent risky behavior
The correct use of a condom protects against HIV infection: it must be put on at the beginning of sexual intercourse and kept on for the entire duration, until the end.
To avoid blood-borne transmission of the infection, do not use shared syringes and needles, and make sure that the needles used for injections, piercings and tattoos are disposable.
What to do in case of risky behavior: the test
If you have behaved at risk, you can get tested for HIV, which is the only way to detect the infection in the period in which the virus does not cause symptoms (even for many years). The test, free and anonymous, can be carried out in healthcare facilities (in many cases even without a medical prescription).
Data from the Istituto Superiore di Sanit indicate that the tendency to take the test decreases following unprotected sexual contact, while the tests performed increase because HIV-related symptoms are already present in people who were therefore infected several years earlier. .
There is no cure that permanently eliminates the virus from the body, but the antiretroviral therapies used to treat HIV infection block the reproduction of the virus in cells, significantly reducing the amount of virus circulating in the body so as not to damage the immune system. They therefore allow HIV-positive people to live well and have a similar life perspective to those who do not have HIV.
ISS toll-free number (anonymous and free)
On the occasion of the World Day to Fight AIDS, the experts of the AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections Toll-Free Telephone of the Istituto Superiore di Sanit, 800 861061, offer telephone advice and information on where to take the HIV test, from 9 am to 7pm (during the year the service is active until 6pm, from Monday to Friday). The legal expert will be available in the afternoon.
From January to November 2023, experts responded to over eight thousand calls. Many have asked for information on the modes of transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and on clinical diagnostic tests.
There still remains a quota, equal to 7.8 percent of phone calls, from which a critical aspect emerges linked to the misinformation still widespread around HIV infection and AIDS, especially in relation to the methods of HIV transmission.
Initiatives (and distribution of free self-tests)
For the entire weekend of December 1st, the volunteers of the LILA association will be in squares, universities, schools, in their own offices to do prevention, listen, inform on the advantages offered by therapies, to promote and offer tests (here are the initiatives).
There will also be free distribution of the OraQuick HIV self test, an easy-to-use self-test, to raise awareness of this diagnostic opportunity (here are the dates and locations).
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December 1, 2023 (changed December 1, 2023 | 09:42)
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