By Polina Pallieraki,
This year is marked by the decrease observed in new HIV diagnoses in the first ten months of 2021, which should be interpreted with caution, as safer conclusions will only be possible once the declarations from the health agencies are completed by the end of the year. At the same time, there is a gradual decrease in new diagnoses among injecting drug users, as well as among homosexual men (MSM). However, regarding the first group (users of injecting addictive substances) the number of newly diagnosed infections remains at higher levels compared to 2011 when the epidemic explosion occurred in this group.
According to the cascade of stages of care for people living with HIV in Greece, which was published based on the latest data of EODY, 81% of people diagnosed and living with HIV in our country have received antiretroviral treatment. Especially for the group of men who have sexual contact with men, the corresponding percentage is estimated at 91%.
For cases diagnosed in 2020, the average time from diagnosis to initiation of treatment has decreased to approximately 54 days. Early initiation of treatment is not only a therapeutic strategy but also a prevention strategy, as effective antiretroviral treatment significantly reduces the risk of HIV transmission.
Staff in the Infectious Diseases Units have been called upon to support the management of the COVID-19 pandemic, making it even more difficult to care for people living with HIV and receiving treatment. The support of the Infectious Diseases Units with logistical infrastructure and personnel appears as an imperative and immediate need to ensure the quality of the services provided.
Special care should be given to people belonging to vulnerable population groups, such as IDUs and immigrants. In particular, for IDUs, it is of particular importance to include them in drug addiction programs, to ensure their connection to the Infectious Diseases Units, their stay in treatment and follow-up, as well as the promotion of HIV control among them.
In addition, it is imperative to maintain and further expand intervention and harm reduction programs, as well as the implementation of targeted interventions to address poverty, lack of stable accommodation, and discrimination.
On the occasion of World AIDS Day, the National Public Health Organization is holding information and awareness events in the center of Athens. Specifically, on Wednesday, December 1st (15:00-21:00), at the EODY mobile unit, which will be located in Gazi-Kerameikos Metro Station, specialized staff will provide information and awareness services about HIV, aiming to promote safe sex contact, improving the living conditions of people living with HIV, as well as tackling social stigma.
EODY carries out different actions targeting vulnerable population groups, as well as the community in order to effectively prevent and treat HIV/AIDS.