The European Week of HIV and Hepatitis Testing began Monday with free screenings across the country targeting mainly the most vulnerable, the executive director of GAT – the treatment activist group announced Sunday to Lusa.
Portugal joins this initiative for the ninth year, organized by EuroTest, reinforcing that screening for HIV, viral hepatitis and other sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) is a priority, at a time when there are still gaps in the diagnosis of these infections, hampering international strategies to eliminate them. by 2030, as a serious public health problem, says GAT.
Until November 29, it will be possible to carry out “free, rapid and anonymous” examinations for these diseases at 33 organizations distributed across the country “from the Algarve to Minho,” said GT CEO Ricardo Fernandez, adding that those interested can find information about the locations On the European Test Week Facebook page.
For GATT, screening targeting the most vulnerable groups, in the context of joint prevention, is a priority service.
“We have a strategy to contain the epidemic that includes testing, diagnosis, all prevention techniques, condoms and preventive treatment [profilaxia pré exposição] (…]Tools that have to be strategically well placed so that we can reach a situation where HIV is no longer a public health problem in Portugal”, said Ricardo Fernandez.
The problem, he cautioned, is that if there is no investment in these tools, whatever is being done will have an “individual effect – and I am happy with that – but not in terms of overall health”.
Despite some restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, organizations working in the field of public health continue to provide STI screening, medical and nursing consultations, referral, health care linkage, distribution of condoms and lubricants, safer consumables and opioid alternatives programmes.
The organizations, a member of the Community Screening Network promoted by GAT, that joins the initiative, stress the importance of maintaining these services and removing any barrier to accessing health care.
European Testing Week, which Ricardo Fernandez sees as a “very big opportunity” to reach people, many of whom are already fragile, offer them testing and, if they react, refer them for treatment.
The official noted that before the epidemic, the whole of Europe already had “very large numbers” of infections, and it is estimated that one in five people was not aware of his infection, and that in some countries people did not have the opportunity to undergo examination during the pandemic.
In Portugal, there are still 5% to 10% of unidentified people, those to whom not all developed strategies have reached.
He defended this by saying, “We must continue to work to reach these people because the infection dynamics is a dynamic in which one person can infect several people, and therefore, if we can reach these people in time, we will avoid infection.”
Forty years after HIV was first diagnosed, people still have a “devastating idea of this disease”, but it is a “misconception” because it is already a disease with a good prognosis, unlike what happened a few years ago.
On the other hand, they are not aware of the seriousness of the disease, believing that it is over, while “Portugal is the first country” in cases of HIV infection in Western Europe, alternating with Latvia.
Although there is a ‘very small but interesting’ trend to go down [do número de novos casos]It is still insufficient in relation to the scale and weight of the infection in Portugal from a social, budgetary and societal perspective.”
According to the report “Infection with HIV and AIDS in Portugal – 2020”, 778 new cases were diagnosed in 2019, 331 fewer than in 2018.
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