TIRANA, Dec. 1 – During this year’s World AIDS Day, the country’s Public Health Institute published data showing the number of individuals touched by the HIV virus in 2018 was almost identical with last year’s number, while the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control listed Albania third in the region in terms of affected individuals.
Last year, PHI data showed that 94 Albanians had been affected by the HIV virus, while 92 new cases have been discovered during 2018.
Again, the overwhelming majority of cases are at a developing stage of the disease and the total number of people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS has reached a total of 1,195.
“A worrisome problem has come up from centering patients in Tirana, because all of them have to come to Tirana once a week to receive their medication and it is being discussed with health authorities if we can work on delivering them in some main cities, in this way also avoiding the stigma that derives from society and acquaintances,” Olimbi Hoxha, head of the Albanian Association against HIV/AIDS, told the Voice of America.
Albania has ensured a six million dollar fund to fight AIDS and tuberculosis until 2022 from the Global Fund under a detailed project on a national scale.
The project’s most ambitious part is to prevent the disease from spreading and the treatment of diagnosed persons. Out of Albania’s 1,195 cases, two thirds are male and one third is female, 44 are children, 110 teenagers and over 1 thousand adults.
From the recently discovered 92 cases, 65 are males, 27 females and two children. Only this year, 20 people suffering from AIDS passed away.
Meanwhile, the ECDC, which monitored 15 countries, listed Albania third after Cyprus and Montenegro regarding the number of AIDS/HIV affected individuals.
After Albania comes Romania, Turkey, Slovakia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and other countries.
A number of physicians told local media who reported on the disease on the World AIDS Day that the number of AIDS affected individuals is actually thought to be much higher than what official data and statistics show.
In Albania, the most frequent way the HIV virus is spread remains sexual intercourse.
“Data coming from research conducted over the last years shows the cases of homosexual men affected by the HIV virus have seen an increase,” Marjeta Dervishi, epidemiologist, told local media.
However, the biggest problem preventing Albanian society to take preventive measures against AIDS is the still-powerful stigma associated with the disease. Most people do not get voluntarily tested for the virus and are thus unable to catch the virus at an early stage.
“60 percent of cases reach for medical attention at a very advanced stage. We think the cases being diagnosed late have been infected with the virus for an average of six to seven years and might have also infected other people,” Dervishi further stated.
Science has evolved and, if caught in time, a person with HIV/AIDS who is regularly treated with antiretrovirals, offered free of charge in the infectious service can live only two or three months less than a healthy person.
Albania has also made it possible for HIV/AIDS infected parents to give birth to healthy babies and the eighth case has already been marked. This year, a free AIDS test will be offered only for pregnant women.
On Dec. 1, a number of non-governmental organizations dealing with AIDS awareness and prevention took to the streets and the Skanderbeg Square handing out condoms, advice and information on their soon-to-be launched testing services.
According to NGO representatives, raising awareness, being responsible and getting tested are vital to the global and regional efforts to completely eradicate the virus.