HIV figures prompt new plan
30 November 2007, Madrid - A new report by the Health Ministry shows that half of new HIV cases are heterosexuals who have engaged in unprotected sex.
30 November 2007
Madrid - A new report by the Health Ministry shows that half of new HIV cases are heterosexuals who have engaged in unprotected sex.
Around 30 percent are attributed to homosexuals in the same category, and 20 percent are drug users who have shared needles. The ministry expects some 3,000 new HIV cases this year, but says it cannot effectively combat the problem until a national registry of those diagnosed with HIV and AIDS is established.
The new data reflects changing tendencies. Based on figures from last year, the situation in 1997 was very different: around 40 percent of new cases were from shared needles, while heterosexuals made up 30 percent, and homosexuals 15 percent.
The government's national AIDS plan says that there are between 120,000 and 150,000 people in Spain with the HIV virus - the same number as a decade ago - of whom between 70,000 and 90,000 have developed full-blown AIDS. Since 1981, between 50,000 and 55,000 people have died from the illness. But the figures are not entirely reliable, given that death certificates often put complications caused by AIDS down as the cause of death, not the disease.
The data is the starting point of a four-year plan that will begin in 2008, the aim of which, according to the ministry, is to show that "the HIV/AIDS epidemic is under control; intravenous drug users have access to effective prevention; the culture of safe sex is widespread, and information is available; access to high-quality social and sanitary care is universal; and people with HIV feel that their rights are being respected, and their needs covered." The document reflects the proposals of "all" the associations involved, says the Health Ministry's Teresa Robledo, who is in overall charge of the National AIDS Plan.
The plan's main objective is to prevent new infections. To do that, it is vital that those unaware that they have HIV - an estimated 30,000 people - discover their status before developing AIDS.
The Health Ministry also says that it will be working with "particularly vulnerable groups," such as male homosexuals - among whom the use of protective measures is declining - young people, women, prostitutes and immigrants.
Measures are also needed to combat intolerance against those with HIV, something that requires people to be able to use the law to report discrimination.
The new plan also highlights the need for more information about people diagnosed with HIV. "The lack of a nationwide database is limiting our ability to draw conclusions and is preventing us from taking decisions.
That is why we must have a joint effort so that Spain, along with Italy, is no longer the only country among those in the World Health Organization's 52-nation European area that has no nationwide diagnostic statistics," says Robledo.
But this proposal has been rejected by NGOs such as Red2002 and PreSOS Galiza, which advises those with the virus not to cooperate with the Health Ministry.
Cesida, which brings together the main HIV associations, is more open to talks with the government on the issue, but says that a registry would violate the privacy of people diagnosed with HIV.
[Copyright EL PAÍS, SL. / EMILIO DE BENITO 2007]
Subject: Spanish news