By Peter Stevenson
FOURTEEN new cases of HIV/AIDS were recorded between August and October of this year according to the health ministry.
The numbers were released by the National Epidemiological Data services during a press conference to mark World AIDS Day yesterday. According to their data, between January and October of this year 46 new cases were diagnosed.
“Despite low infections rates of HIV in Cyprus which are estimated at close to 0.1 per cent of the public, there has been a slight increase in cases of Cypriots being diagnosed and a decrease in foreign nationals being diagnosed with the virus,” the health ministry’s acting permanent secretary Christina Yiannaki said yesterday at a press conference.
She added that there has been an increase in cases in recent years. In 2010 there were 41 diagnoses, 54 in 2011 and 58 last year.
“The health services are troubled by the data and are in the process of investigating the cases having made efforts to solve the problem over many years on many different levels,” she said.
Yiannaki added that the government spent €4.3 million in 2012 and €5 million so far this year on administering antiretroviral drugs to patients.
The management of HIV/AIDS normally includes the use of multiple antiretroviral drugs in an attempt to control HIV infection.
Head of the health ministry’s National Programme on Aids, Dr Ioannis Demetriades said that up until October of this year, 46 cases had been diagnosed and of those, 40 are residents of Cyprus, two live abroad, three live in the north and one which was unknown.
“Of the 40 Cyprus residents, 33 are Cypriots (30 men and three women) and seven are foreign (five men and two women),” he said.
Demetriades added that between 1986 and 2012 a total of 793 people had been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS of which 423 were Cypriots and 370 were foreign. Of those Cypriots the ratio of male to female was seven to one, he said.
“The main way the disease is transmitted to men is through sexual intercourse with another man (52 per cent) and heterosexual intercourse (41 per cent),” Demetriades said.
According to the statistics, 66 per cent of those diagnosed were between 20 and 39 years old, 30 per cent were between 40 and 65 years old and four per cent were 19 years old and younger.
World AIDS Day is held on December 1 each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988.
Globally an estimated 34 million people have HIV. More than 25 million people between 1981 and 2007 died from the virus, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.
Today, many scientific advances have been made in HIV treatment. There are laws to protect people living with HIV and much more is understood about the condition. “Despite this, people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others from HIV, and stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with HIV,” a statement on the World AIDS day official website said.
“World AIDS Day is important as it reminds the public and government that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education,” it concluded.