HIV rising among gay men

in News · 30-04-2011 00:00:00 · 0 Comments
HIV rising among gay men

The number of new cases of HIV is increasing among gay Portuguese men, placing Portugal third on a list of European countries with the highest incidences of such cases.

These figures were made public around the same time as a centre in Lisbon that carries out quick and free HIV tests was opened.
Check Point LX, located near Príncipe Real, was converted from a former tailor’s shop belonging to seamster José Carlos, who died from HIV/AIDS. The centre’s main goal is to offer HIV tests with anonymity for men who have sex with other men.
Psychological support is also provided at the centre. Men who test positive for the disease will be re-routed into the National Health Service.
Workers at the centre are themselves gay or living with the virus, and were selected to be non-discriminatory.
Speaking at the inauguration of the centre, Health Minister Ana Jorge said: “This is a space that is the responsibility of a non-governmental organisation, involving people who are either carriers of HIV or are men who have sex with other men (HSH). In other words, the cases are overseen by people with whom patients identify and with the support of health professionals.
Congratulating the creators of the concept, the Health Minster said that, in her opinion, “This is a huge step forward because it shows society is able to organise itself and find the support it needs to offer a more solid answer.”
Check Point LX aims to try and reverse a tendency that started at the beginning of the century.
Luís Mendão, president of the Portuguese Activists’ Group for HIV/AIDS Treatments (GAT), which was responsible for the creation of the centre, explained: “In 2000 the number of cases of HIV among men who have HSH started to rise.”
“At present Portugal is the third country out of 27 in Europe with the highest number of new cases being diagnosed among those who have HSH”, he said, adding that it became most noticeable from the year 2005.
The most recent available statistics are from 2008, during which 355 new cases were registered in Portugal – one a day.
Only in England and Holland are the figures higher.
Luís Mendão stressed that “If the infection is diagnosed early and the person treated, HIV transmission can be greatly reduced.”
However, according to a study compiled by Dr. Maria José Campos, most men who could be at risk of contracting the disease will never have an HIV test.
An online study carried out last year by 180,000 men throughout Europe, 5,000 of whom living in Portugal, showed that only 45.9 percent of Portuguese respondents had had an HIV test that year.
National coordinator for HIV/AIDS, Henrique Barros, reiterated the importance of Check Point LX’s role in society, explaining how, until recently, the HSH population in Portugal lived in a “hidden and occult” fashion.
“We are bringing [that population] into the light of day, fighting stigmas and guaranteeing that they have access, in good time, to prevention and to diagnosis to avoid an uncontrollable rise in infection”, he said.



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