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HIV surge – time for a new campaign?

In the 1980s, sex was, or could be, a dangerous pursuit.  It most definitely could lead to HIV, which would in turn lead to AIDS and then death.  At least, that is what the TV advertisements sponsored by governments said.

Celebrities like Madonna and George Michael urged their fans – and those who were not – to get tested.  HIV was then known as the “gay curse” because the disease was thought to be more prevalent within the gay community.  It was also thought to be an African disease.

Since then however, a lot has changed.  The scaremongering has died down and people have become better informed.  They know that with antiretroviral drugs, AIDS has now simply become a chronic disease and no longer the death sentence it was in the eighties.

There still exists the misconception that HIV is still a gay or an African disease, though.  Attitudes in casual sex among heterosexual couples have not changed; it has even worsened with dating apps like Tinder, which has made sexual hook-ups so much easier.  In a report published by the World Health Organisation and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Europe registered a record 142,000 new HIV infections in 2014.

As well as the dating apps, drug usage and especially the practice of sharing used needles, has been pointed out as one of the causes in the surge of the disease.

Russia is the European country with more infected drug users – 58% according to the report.  Experts blame the way in which Russia deals with its drug users, “encouraging” them to give up first before receiving treatment.  And what it recommends: “abstinence and healthy living with an emphasis on sports and exercise.”

Russia also bans the medical prescription of methadone.  Yet, according to the World Bank’s Global AIDS Programme Director David Wilson, “the three interventions needle exchange, substitution therapy and treatment for people with HIV would help keep in check Russia’s epidemic.”

Agencies like the World Health Organisation, which has revised its treatment guidelines, are advocating for earlier testing and for people in high risk conditions to take preventative drugs.

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