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Why is AIDS still killing despite advances in treatment?

Why is AIDS still killing despite advances in treatment?

The Brazilian AIDS program needs to be modernized to ensure extensive testing and access to treatment, and to prevent the thousands of deaths that still occur from the disease.

We remember December 1, World AIDS Day. The date was set in 1988, by the World Health Organization, as a way to raise awareness and encourage increased prevention, treatment and care measures for individuals living with HIV.

In 2013, the United Nations recognized Brazil as a leader in the fight against the disease. Between 1983 and 1985, cases began to appear in all Brazilian capitals. In 1985, public health physician Fabiola Nunes Aguiar served as the National Secretariat for Special Programs, where the Department of Health Dermatology was located – the department at the time concerned with issues related to leprosy and sexually transmitted diseases (STIs). She is the one who organizes the first AIDS meeting in the Ministry of Health.

This is an important reminder because it was women who excelled in creating the anti-AIDS program that has become a global reference. In 1896, Maria Leide Van Del Rey took over the Department of Sanitary Dermatology in the Ministry of Health, and Lair Guerra was one of the main people responsible for implementing the National STD/AIDS Program. In 1985, I began working on capacity building across the country. In addition, he represented Brazil at the First International AIDS Conference in Atlanta, where he called for financial assistance to low-income countries to fight AIDS. Since then, she has become an essential woman to unify the national programme.

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Areen Gera

Many other women have been instrumental in turning STDs/AIDS into a world reference in the fight against the disease.

Stigma and prejudice

Since the first report of the disease in the United States, AIDS has been linked to homosexuals. From there moral and biased discourse spread and still hovers over society. In the 1980s, people with the disease had to deal with abusive and prejudiced questions and actions. Brazilian cartoonist Henfil had hemophilia and contracted the disease through a blood transfusion. Only after that, it began to be seen as a disease capable of affecting not only gays, but even today the LGBTQIA+ community suffers from stigma and prejudice.

Black women are the ones who die the most

The latest epidemiological bulletin, released on December 1, 2020, shows that Brazil recorded a total of 41,919 new cases of HIV-positive patients in 2019, which is 7% lower than the previous year.

From 2012 to 2019, there was a decrease in the disease detection rate from 21.9/100 thousand inhabitants to 17.8/100 thousand inhabitants, a decrease of 18.7%. However, the disease has increased among men in younger age groups.

Although the AIDS mortality rate has decreased in the past five years, 10,565 people died in 2019 from the disease, a number that remains alarming.

In terms of race, most of those from 2019 were black: 61.7% (47.2% brown and 14.5% black), 37.7% of deaths among whites, 0.3% among yellow and 0.3% among Indigenous. Black women were most affected: 62.1% died, while the rate among black men was 61.4%. Incidentally, in the comparison between 2009 and 2019, there was a 21% decrease in the death rate among whites and a 19.3% increase in the death rate among blacks.

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Why does this part of the population die more from disease? They are often not diagnosed in time for appropriate treatment, and this occurs when there are a combination of factors, such as skin colour, economic status, education level, absence of support networks or family support.

Today, early diagnosis, along with access to advanced treatments, allows people with AIDS to lead healthy lives; the presence of an undetectable viral load, which makes HIV infection non-transmissible; Infected mothers can give birth to babies who are not infected with the virus. Women, who have contributed so much to the fight against disease, cannot continue to be a victim or discover that they only contracted the disease at the time of childbirth. The Brazilian AIDS program needs to be modernized to ensure extensive testing and access to treatment, and to prevent the thousands of deaths that still occur from the disease.

Brazil has become a world reference in free treatment for people living with HIV, with profound imprints for women, doctors, researchers, social and health professionals. We extend our respect to all of them, including Dr. Adele Benzacken, the former director of the Ministry of Health’s HIV/AIDS Department, dismissed by Bolsonaro, who recently rescinded her appointment by the Ministry of Science and Technology to receive the National Scientific Merit Medal.

Despite Bolsonaro, professionals do not abandon Brazil!

By Vanessa Grazioten Former Senator (AM) | Brazilian Portuguese text