In an effort to increase awareness, prevention and timely detection of a disease that can be fully avoided, Dec. 1 is recognized across the globe as World AIDS Day. This year’s theme is “Increasing Impact through Transparency, Accountability, and Partnerships.”
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has infected 36.7 million people worldwide, 2.1 of them in Latin America and the Caribbean. If left unchecked, the virus will cause AIDS, a series of symptoms and illnesses caused by the destruction of the immune system, which cannot longer fight other viral, bacterial of fungal infections. There is no cure for the virus but there are effective antiretroviral (ARV) treatments available, which permit those infected to live long and healthy lives.
In 2016, there were 1.8 million new cases of HIV infection worldwide. While this number marks a decrease from 2015’s 2.1 million infections, there is still significant work to be done to prevent more contagious events and to provide treatment to those infected. Of those 36.7 million people with HIV, only 19.5 million are receiving antiretroviral treatment.
Mexico: Available Medication, Insufficient Awareness
By the end of December 2016 there were 220,000 people living with HIV in Mexico, but only 57 percent of them were aware of that fact. In Mexico, HIV kills 3.8 people out of every 100,000 every year. The country has provided retroviral treatment free of charge for every immunosuppressed patient since 2003. Yet, by mid-2017 only 140,979 Mexicans were undergoing treatment, according to the National Center for Prevention and Control of HIV and AIDS (CENSIDA). The center also warns that one out of every three Mexicans with HIV is unaware they carry the virus, which may be a reason behind the 12,000 annual new infections.
According to CENSIDA, from 2005 the country has decreased the infection rate by 15 percent annually. But there is still a lot to be done as the country estimates that 250,000 people will be infected by 2020. The center has the not insignificant goal of controlling the disease through three objectives. First is the eradication of perinatal HIV, second is the control of HIV sexual transmission and finally a reduction of new infections through intravenous drug use.
Doctors, medical professionals, hospitals and health organizations in Mexico and over the world warn that prevention is the best possible measure one can take to stay safe. Standard preventive measures include use of female or male condoms during sex; new syringes and needles for each injection of medication and never under any circumstances sharing them with others; and ARV therapy for pregnant women to avoid infecting newborns.
Once infected, HIV patients might be extremely scared but survival rates are increasing through the use of ARV therapy. According to CENSIDA, in 1985 survival rate for a patient diagnosed with HIV was one year. Now, a diagnosed patient who starts taking ARV therapy can live approximately 44 years.
Sources: AVERT, UNAIDS and CENSIDA.