11,000 new HIV infections each year in Mexico, 45% in young people

Without a doubt, the HIV epidemic continues to be a public health problem in the country, and it is estimated that 230,000 people are living with HIV in Mexico.

HIV test. Stock photo
HIV test. Stock photo

A little more than 11,000 new HIV infections are registered in Mexico each year, 45 percent of which are among young people between the ages of 15 and 29, which is a source of alarm. Alethese de la Torre, director general of the National Center for the Prevention and Control of HIV/AIDS (Conasida), acknowledged the above, highlighting that Mexico and the world are far from ending this epidemic.

"Undoubtedly the HIV epidemic continues to be a public health problem in our country, and it is estimated that 230,000 people are living with HIV in Mexico; for various reasons, thousands of people do not have access to information or supplies needed to prevent new infections, in the period from 2014 to 2018 were recorded 68,807 new cases of HIV," she said.

Within the framework of the commemoration of World Day for the Fight against HIV/AIDS, Hector Miguel Corral, a Conasida citizen, raised his voice to claim on behalf of civil society the crisis by the lack of antiretrovirals in the country and the elimination of support to non-governmental organizations in prevention tasks, which from 2006 to 2018 received funding for 777 million pesos, through public calls.

"Still in different parts of the Republic, cases of shortage of antiretrovirals continue to be reported, due to the difficulties that arose in the process of purchase and distribution, from the changes implemented by the current administration, which endangers the viral suppression and quality of life of people living with HIV," he lamented.

In response, Hugo López Gatell, Undersecretary of Prevention and Health Promotion explained that the lack of antiretrovirals was due to the fact that they sought to improve treatments with high quality, safe and effective supplies, but also to protect the public finances of different private interests, generally speculative, which led the country to pay an unjustified surcharge.

"The net result that everyone knows is that today we have the most complete, most modern antiretroviral treatment scheme in Latin America, and not only that, but we also managed to have it at half the cost. In society, in the public media, there has been a desire to emphasize the issue of cost as if we had had the intention of saving instead of what it really was and continues to be for the other elements, the intention of having the best elements but also at the best possible cost," he said.

The shortage of antiretrovirals is registered in the last part of the distribution of inputs, when they are already in the central warehouses and the state authorities have problems to deliver them to the health units and institutions.

Another factor is that there are still bad practices of public servants, such as those responsible for pharmacies, which simply do not want to supply antiretrovirals, so he urged citizens to denounce any failure to the right to universal health care with access to free medicines.

Regarding the lack of budget for civil society organizations, after conducting a study, the Ministry of Health realized that there is no clear evidence that this mechanism has achieved the maximum possible effect on prevention tasks, since 50 percent of people who come for the first time to receive treatment for HIV infection do so when "it is too late and there is catastrophic damage to their immune system, because it took between 7 and 10 years to know they had this disease".

World AIDS Day: HIV in numbers

HIV, the virus that causes AIDS (the final stage of infection), remains a serious global public health problem. So far it has caused 32 million deaths worldwide.

However, if patients have access to effective diagnosis, treatment and care, the disease can be controlled and a patient can live a normal life.

24.5 million people had access to antiretroviral therapy by the end of June 2019, according to UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.

By 2018, 37.9 million people were living with HIV. About 8.1 million knew they had the virus.

But having HIV does not mean having AIDS. To be infected with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is to have been exposed to the virus, but you don't necessarily have to develop the disease (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

More than half of infections in Africa

In developing regions, AIDS is currently particularly prevalent.

A total of 25.6 million people living with HIV live in Africa, the most affected region in the world. This represents 67% of the world's total. In addition, it is estimated that almost two out of every three new infections occur on this continent.

Political instability and the lack of financial resources are the main obstacles preventing African governments from addressing the epidemic. This hampers access to medicines and health care.

In developing countries, antiretroviral therapy was not introduced until about 2003, almost a decade after its introduction in Western countries. In that time, millions of people died.

International cooperation is essential to combat AIDS in these regions. Despite this, investment has declined in recent years: by the end of 2018, aid was estimated to have fallen by almost $1 billion compared to the previous year.

Future plans

Among the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), one of the most important goals is to completely eradicate the global AIDS epidemic by 2030.

By then, by 2020, UNAIDS has set itself the challenge of 90-90-90: to make 90% of people living with HIV aware of their positive status, 90% have access to antiretroviral therapy and 90% have undetectable rates of the virus in their blood, which would mean that they cannot transmit it.

Information prepared in collaboration with the Departmental Communication Sciences Unit of the University of La Laguna.

By Agencies

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