“Still facing the stigma” • International AIDS Day at Rambam – Increase in the number of new patients – Haifa

by time news

Increase in the number of new patients compared to last year, especially in the Arab sector • International AIDS Day – 1/12/21

International AIDS Day is celebrated every year on the 1st of December. This year, the AIDS unit at Rambam wants to point out a number of worrying points that they identify among the patients in the unit during the past year: In 2021, about 84 new patients were added to the unit, compared to 65 patients last year. Israeli and are not included in the health basket services, so that a total of about 96 patients were added.In total, in 2021, about 1,400 patients will be treated in the unit.

Most of the increase in Israeli patients in the unit is made up of about 35 Israelis from Arab society, who constitute about 41% of all new patients added this year. An increase in the rate of new carriers was also recorded among immigrants from Eastern Europe and Russia (former Soviet Union countries), whose rate is about 25% of the total new patients.

Cultural characteristics

The increase in these figures is particularly noticeable in the Corona era, with the increase in infections compared to last year being tried to explain in the unit as follows: 2020 was a year of closures and restrictions, whether it was restrictions on flights abroad or traffic across the country. The year 2021 brought with it the flights abroad, the absorption of tourists and the waves of immigration to Israel for Diaspora Jews. All of these have been added to the local HIV infection rates.

“We found that some of the new immigrants from the former Soviet Union countries come to Israel as carriers and AIDS patients,” notes Dr. Eduardo Shachar, director of the AIDS unit at Rambam Medical Campus.

Regarding patients from Arab society, Dr. Shachar notes: “We can try to explain the increase in the number of HIV carriers and AIDS patients among some of those young men from Arab society depending on the cultural and social characteristics from which these patients come. Out of their social environment. ”

Dr. Eduardo Shachar:

Some of the carriers from Arab society treated in the unit were infected here in Israel and some abroad. Unfortunately, these young people were not exposed to AIDS campaigns in the education system or other systems in which they are, they have unprotected and infected sex. As a result, only when serious complications of immune failure begin to appear, do they find themselves coming to the attending physician or directly to us at the MLRD when they are in advanced health with the disease. Getting into this condition may cause the clarification about their medical condition to take a long and long time until they get an accurate diagnosis.

Quite a few challenges

The staff of the AIDS clinic routinely faces quite a few challenges among the unit’s patients. Together with the Department of Social Work, the team provides a solution for pregnant women with HIV, newborns born with the virus, patients who are required to deal with the accompanying stigma and more. “We have patients with AIDS and HIV-positive people who cannot find work,” notes Dr. Shahar.

“It turns out that in 2021, with over 40 years of AIDS virus behind us, there are still people who hold the stigma about HIV carriers. We know of quite a few cases where patients were required to bring medical information from their GP as part of the recruitment process. “They found themselves out of the work circle because of the stigma among recruiters in the various companies about working with HIV carriers or AIDS patients, with whom they would be required to work in the same place.”

Reason for optimism

Research and development over the past 40 years on drugs to combat the HIV virus has helped carriers and patients with AIDS to receive chronic treatment and in fact enabled them to live alongside the disease for many good years.

“The fact that our unit can provide tools for those who come to be examined soon, may help the subject to maintain his health and avoid a life-threatening situation,” explains Dr. Shachar. Life-threatening, reminiscent of the AIDS patients of the early 1990s. “These are people who are currently in poor health with a functional failure of the immune system, suffering from serious diseases that should not have harmed them, if the patients had not overcome the shame and fear of social exclusion and would have been tested for the HIV virus.”

The HIV virus is transmitted through its entry into the human body in one of the following ways, all of which have in common direct contact with body fluids.:
• having unprotected sex;
• drug injections;
• blood transfusion;
• open wounds;

The HIV virus is not transmitted through air, food, drink or normal physical contact.

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