The Foundation and BCN Checkpoint launch a campaign that encourages gay men and other MSM to get HIV-tested every three months02/07/2014
Since the appearance of the first cases of HIV in the early 80s, the situation has improved in many aspects, especially in the significant decrease in mortality due to AIDS. However, epidemic is not under control: the number of new infections remains stable worldwide and has increased in many countries among the most vulnerable groups.
The number of new HIV infections and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) has increased significantly among gay men and other MSM. According to the report SIVES 2012, the number of HIV diagnoses among MSM in Catalonia has increased 7.6% annually between 2001 and 2011. Indeed, this population represents over 61% of new diagnoses in Catalonia and reaches to 81% among residents in the city of Barcelona. Only in the BCN Checkpoint community center, 3-4 new cases are diagnosed every week, and data tracking cohort ITHACA, which is carried out at this center, show that the incidence in this group is 2.4% (people/year). In the general population the incidence of infection is 0.02% (people/year).
These data clearly indicate that a rapid and effective action is required. If we do not curb the increase in new cases of HIV in this population, in 10 years we could face an alarming situation in which more than 40% of MSM in the age group 40 to 50 years would be living with HIV, as demonstrated by a study in the United States, where the situation is similar to ours.
Several factors explain this high incidence compared to that between the general population. Although the population of MSM has a high risk perception and HIV testing is performed frequently, biological, structural, territorial and behavioral factors are given, along with a high prevalence of asymptomatic other STIs, and explain why the incidence in this group is so high and why numbers are increasing every year. "When the incidence is so high, the possibility of HIV infection depends not only on the behavior of each person. Even people who risk very little can end up being infected. Just one or two lapses can have devastating consequences", explains Ferran Pujol, director of BCN Checkpoint.
Although we must continue to insist on condom use, other preventive strategies must be added to gain effectiveness with emphasis on early detection and treatment. Most new infections occur through sexual intercourse with people who have recently been infected and have not yet been diagnosed and are not receiving antiretroviral therapy. "In the first weeks of infection the concentration of HIV in the blood is in its highest point. In these people with recent infection, the chances of transmitting the virus are very high," explains Dr. Pep Coll, physician and researcher at the Fight AIDS Foundation. Moreover, recent studies indicate that, when a person with HIV has an undetectable viral load through treatment, the possibility of infecting another person is very low, almost zero. "In addition, early diagnosis has significant benefits for the individual, preventing the immune system to reach a degree of impairment that puts life in danger," adds Dr. Coll.
Es fundamental, pues, insistir en la importancia de la detección precoz, especialmente en la fase inicial de la infección. Con este objetivo, BCN Checkpoint pone en marcha, con la colaboración de la Fundación Lucha contra el Sida, una campaña para fomentar la realización sistemática en los HSH de la prueba del VIH cada tres meses. Ferran Pujol recalca que "el 65% de los nuevos casos que detectamos son infecciones recientes, de menos de seis meses de antigüedad. Los efectos de incrementar la frecuencia de la prueba en el colectivo HSH deben hacer bajar estas cifras". Aparte del VIH y la sífilis, BCN Checkpoint también tiene previsto implementar en los próximos meses cribados de otras ITS como la gonorrea y la clamidia, que han experimentado un repunte en los últimos años y son indicativas de un mayor riesgo de infección por el VIH.
It is essential, therefore, to emphasize the importance of early detection, especially in the initial phase of infection. To this end, BCN Checkpoint has launched, in collaboration with the Fight AIDS Foundation, a campaign to promote the systematic realization HIV-testing between MSM every three months. Ferran Pujol stresses that "65% of new cases detected are recent infections, less than six months old. Effects of increasing the frequency of testing between MSM should bring down these numbers." Besides HIV and syphilis, BCN Checkpoint also plans to implement in the coming months screening for other STIs such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, which have experienced a surge in recent years and are indicative of an increased risk of HIV infection.