December 1 is the 26th annual World AIDS Day, and here in Brazil we can be proud that Brazil has been an international success story in the fight against this epidemic. Brazil took leadership in the AIDS fight in the 1990s by guaranteeing AIDS treatment for all of its citizens needing it, at no cost, and has been a leader in AIDS prevention programs as well.
Let’s look at the big news from the battle against HIV in the past year, and what each of us needs to do ourselves to fight this disease. Regarding HIV and AIDS, we are lucky we live in Brazil, but to take advantage of the resources available here, we need to be informed.
While the death rate from AIDS has fallen, it is estimated that nearly half a million Brazilians are infected with the HIV virus. Many of those infected are women, and heterosexual. And unfortunately, while many people think otherwise, there is still no cure for HIV or AIDS.
In the past couple of years, AIDS experts were hoping that perhaps, with early enough treatment with a “cocktail” of anti-HIV drugs (a combination of 3 or more drugs), that HIV could be eliminated from the body forever. However these hopes were crushed earlier this year as it was found that some children thought to be cured, suffered a relapse.
It was believed that all the virus had been killed, but obviously it was just hiding in certain cells or organs. After a while without taking anti-HIV medication, the virus reappeared in the blood, so these individuals needed to restart the medications to control the virus.
Here are some main facts about the disease we should keep in mind:
The best prevention
There is no cure so the best approach is to prevent the HIV infection. Wearing a condom (male or female type) is still the best way to prevent spreading the disease to another person, or from getting yourself infected. Many people who are infected with the virus do not know it, so the best approach is to always insist on a condom if you are not sure about your sexual partner or yourself. You can get free condoms at public health centers.
Are you infected with the virus?
The only way to know is to be tested, and you can be tested for free at any public health clinic in Brazil. There is a test that can give a result in 20 minutes, and only requires a drop of blood from your fingertip. There is another newer test that doesn’t even require any blood; you can be tested by rubbing a cotton swab in your mouth, and again with quick results.
If you have the HIV virus?
This is one big advantage for Brazilians, because SUS offers treatment with the cocktail of medications at no cost. This is a big deal, because these drugs are otherwise very expensive. In the United States for example, many people are not taking the medications because they are too expensive.
It is important to remember though that if you have the HIV infection and you start the medication, that you need to take them every single day without fail for them to be effective. Another great advantage of taking the medications is that if you take them faithfully, that you lower by 96% the chance that you might pass on the virus to another person.
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Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)