Millions of people infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are discriminated, ostracized, and most are denied of their human rights every day.
In Colombia, the numbers of HIV carriers are increasing. The Ministry of Health revealed that there were 1,644 new cases of HIV in Bogota for the first nine months of the year, marking a 16.5 percent increase from the same period last year. This means that five new people are infected every day.
The report noted that there are more males carrying the virus, accounting for 87.9 percent of the cases, while females account for only 15 percent. This shows that for every 7 men with HIV, one woman contract the virus.
The most affected demographic is the 20- to 39-year-old age bracket representing 68.5 percent of the cases. In the Colombian capital, Bogotá, the municipality of Chapinero has the highest number of infected at 74 cases out of 100,000 residents while the Santa Fé municipality has 55 per 100,000 residents.
In the first ten months, the number of deaths because of HIV climbed by 11.5 percent from the same period last year.
In the entire Cundinamarca region, 262 people were reported to have Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), and eight deaths were registered in Soacha which has more than 500,000 inhabitants. In the town of Girardot, seven people have died.
HIV is transmitted through numerous ways such as unprotected vaginal and anal intercourse, sharing contaminated instruments such as needles or syringes, and transfusion of contaminated blood. Mothers can also transmit it to their child during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding.
Although the MOH show that more men carry the virus, women are more at risk of acquiring it.
“We must not ignore that we are a sexist society. When women are in a stable relationship, they tend to forget to have protected sex because they are confident with their partner,” Ricardo Garcia Gutierrez, coordinator of the Colombian League for the Fight Against AIDS, said in an interview.
Gender dominance is also a problem. According to the United Nations Development Program in Colombia, gender inequality is a significant factor in the spread of HIV/AIDS as many women are still victims of violence, or else working in the sex industry.
Gutierrez echoes the findings of the report, adding that women are sometimes blackmailed to have unprotected sex because men do not like to use contraception. This further shows the vulnerability of the women in a relationship.
The migration of people with “high levels of mobility” such as truckers, traders, and soldiers are also risk factors for the spread of the disease. Sex workers, street dwellers, and drug users are also most likely to acquire the virus.
There is no cure, but it can be prevented
The Colombian government urges everyone to practice safe sex.
“When used properly during every sexual intercourse, condoms are a proven means of preventing HIV infection in women and men. However, apart from abstinence, no protective method is 100 percent effective,” the World Health Organization wrote.
Male circumcision also decreases the risk of female-to-male transmission by around 60 percent.
Local government also implement the “Test Yourself” program to test themselves once a year as early diagnosis is key. Symptoms can take years before it shows, and by then, a person’s immune system would have already weakened.
WHO is also pushing the antiretroviral therapy (ART), a treatment that helps stifle the replication of HIV. Three drugs, collectively called the “highly active antiretroviral therapy” (HAART), are the most effective way to reduce the amount of HIV in a person’s body. The United Nations aim to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 and double the number of people using ART by 2020.