A TOTAL of 1,450 people in the Algarve are known to be HIV positive and, according to the regional authorities, the real number of sufferers could be two or even three times higher that this. Furthermore, it is believed the number is on the increase.
The number of HIV sufferers in the Algarve represents five per cent of the national total, which currently stands at 29,461 cases. According to regional co-ordinator for the national HIV/Aids programme, Helena Massena, the Faro district occupies fourth place in the national ranking in terms of the number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants, with 343 cases.
Helena Massena was speaking at a congress held in Portimão entitled Educar para prevenção do VIH/Sida, educate for the prevention of HIV/Aids.
Dozens of professors, health professionals and representatives from educational establishments attended the congress, which brought together national and regional Aids specialists.
Over the years, the data collected shows that the prevalence of the virus is greater among men than women and, Massena pointed out that from 2003 onwards, there was an increase in the number of cases within the 35 to 49 years age group.
Following the congress, The Resident contacted Helena Massena to find out why she believes the Algarve has such a comparatively high number of HIV sufferers and why the number is increasing.
“The Algarve is a region whose economy is based on tourism and real estate. Due to the very nature of these industries there is greater flow of people in and out of the region. People come to the Algarve for holidays from all over the country and from abroad. People also come to live and work in the Algarve on a short-term or long-term basis. This ensures a greater migratory flow and a population that is often somewhat temporary. Therefore, such socio-cultural characteristics increase the risk factors in terms of HIV/ Aids.”
But what does she believe is the answer to stop the upward trend?
“We need to reinforce awareness and reinforce prevention methods. More campaigns are needed to educate sex workers and drug addicts, for example offering free condoms. Also, the adult population in general, as well as the student population needs to be consistently informed of the risks.”
Early screening is also essential, she said. “If the virus is detected early on, before the person experiences any symptoms, there is medicine available today that can ensure they can still live a long life. Prevention and early detection is paramount.”
• In Portugal, 29,461 people are infected with HIV.
• In the Algarve, 1,450 are infected with HIV.
• Worldwide, 2.2 million children are infected with HIV.
• Around 300 children in Portugal are infected with HIV.