MEXICO CITY – The late diagnosis of HIV is associated with increased mortality, higher medical costs and less effective treatment, an expert in the field said on Friday.
“We have seen that a large proportion of people with this disease die during the first year after being diagnosed,” infectiology specialist Brenda Crabtree said during the 2018 Latina Forum on HIV.
A recent report showed that more than two thirds of patients who began antiretroviral treatments between 1999-2010 were already in the late stages of HIV-AIDS, she said.
As a case in point, in Mexico, 50 percent of male deaths due to HIV take place in the first month after being diagnosed, while 70 percent take place in the first year, the specialist said.
“Unfortunately, even though HIV tests are easily available, many people avoid getting tested because of fear, shame or because they do not believe it is necessary,” she said.
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 36.7 million people in the world are living with HIV, of which 1.8 million live in Latin America.
The expert said that the current challenge is to design effective campaigns to promote HIV testing, as well as to normalize the HIV test and offer early treatment.
“Countries like Australia, South Africa and Japan have successfully promoted HIV self-testing, which also guarantees early treatment. This could be a solution to improve early treatment for this disease,” Crabtree said.
Dr. Beatriz Grinsztejn, from Brazil’s Evandro Chagas National Institute for Infectious Diseases, agreed on the importance of detecting HIV on time to avoid early mortality.
“Unfortunately, we have seen that five out of 10 patients with HIV die of tuberculosis, a disease they are particularly vulnerable to because of their weak immune systems,” she said.