Wednesday (1.12) is World AIDS Day. In Poland, the number of HIV-infected people who go to hospitals too late, often with symptoms of AIDS, are growing, experts warn.
The percentage of people testing for HIV infection is falling alarmingly. The PBS study among infected people shows that in Poland we have better and better access to therapy, and we can live normally with the virus. – In Poland, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the detection of HIV infections has significantly decreased. There are many seropositive patients in infectious diseases hospitals who are diagnosed at a very late, life-threatening stage of infection, and sometimes with developed AIDS. In the coming years their number may increase – said professor Alicja Wiercińska-Drapało, head of the Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases and Hepatology at the Medical University of Warsaw. This is confirmed by the statistics provided by the National Institute of Public Health – National Research Institute.
HIV virus. “Much less testing done”
In 2019, the number of newly detected infections in Poland amounted to 1615, while in 2020 – only 840. According to Wiercińska-Drapało, this does not mean that the number of infections has decreased.
– It just means that much less testing has been done. Many people live with HIV but do not know it. We are already recording more and more cases of AIDS in our hospital, such as we remember from the beginning of this epidemic in the 1980s – emphasized the specialist.
As she added, this should not happen, because we have very good, fully reimbursed drugs. – And what will happen in two or three years, when people who should be tested during the COVID-19 pandemic, but have not done so and have long forgotten that they had risky behavior, start entering hospitals? After all, if a person with HIV reaches an infectious disease doctor too late, he or she may die. We do not always manage to save such a patient – she explained. The specialist’s concerns are shared by representatives of non-governmental organizations that help people living with HIV. They note the drop in the number of test takers at Consultation and Diagnostic Centers and warn that this may have disastrous consequences for society. A person who does not know about the infection and does not receive treatment can infect loved ones – statistically up to two – three people a year.
HIV must not be taken lightly
To draw attention to the need for HIV testing, in November a car passed through the streets of Kraków, Poznań, Toruń, Gdańsk and Warsaw displaying a red bow with the words “Together against HIV”. In these cities, there were also street advertisements with a bow. The purpose of this happening, organized by Gilead Sciences and the Polish Humanitarian Aid Foundation Res Humanae, is, among other things, to remind us that HIV is still dangerous.
– HIV must not be taken lightly. But it is also worth remembering that if you do the test and know about the infection and take medication, you can live with it completely normally. We remind you about it in spots under the common title “HIV – I am like you”, which can be seen in public transport in Warsaw and Silesia – said Irena Przepiórka, president of the Association of Volunteers Against AIDS “Stay with us”. Grzegorz Jezierski, who has been living with HIV for three years and helping other infected as part of the Buddy Polska project of the Social Committee for AIDS, believes that quick access to good treatment is crucial. She emphasizes that an HIV-infected person who is treated and takes antiretroviral drugs (ARV) has undetectable viremia and therefore does not infect partners. – He can become a father or mother of a healthy child and live a normal life until old age – emphasized Jezierski. A study conducted in mid-2021 by PBS on behalf of Gilead Sciences shows that access to antiretroviral treatment in Poland is very good. As many as 90 percent of HIV-infected people who found out about their infection in the last five years were referred to the appropriate doctors within a month of receiving the result. As for the treatment received, 40 percent. of this group were given drugs immediately, and another 33 percent. – within one month of the first visit. Importantly, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it only slightly difficult for people with HIV to see a doctor. 65 percent of respondents claim that it was the same as before 2020, and 70 percent. were satisfied or rather satisfied with the level of medical care they could count on. According to experts, the results of these studies confirm that it is worth doing HIV tests. Just because people go clubbing less during the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t mean they don’t have sexual contact. Have. House parties are organized, and dating applications are working. And then you don’t do tests and forget about risky behavior over time. Until such a patient comes to our ward as a person with late diagnosis of HIV, whom we often cannot help. Colleagues – test patients for HIV – appeals to all Polish doctors prof. Wiercińska-Drapało.
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