While the number of people infected with HIV in the Czech Republic remains comparatively low, there is no question the situation is getting worse each year. 2015 saw 266 new cases of infection registered, and February 2016 alone saw the most new cases in a single month since 1985.
Doctors have warned for a long time that the clock is ticking when it comes to HIV in the Czech Republic, that too many people are simply not taking the threat seriously enough. The past 13 years has seen the number of new cases rise steadily; and while the number remains lower in comparison to other countries in Europe, that is small comfort. Since January of this year, 95 new case of the HIV virus (which untreated leads to AIDS) in the country; Ladislav Machala is a doctor at the AIDS Centre at Prague’s Bulovka Hospital. He explains some of the reasons the number of cases have gone up.
“I think that one reason is that those who are at risk – those who take risks – simply do not heed the danger: some stopped being afraid. One factor which may have played a role is the existence of fewer preventive campaigns like we used to see in the 1990s. There was a drop in funding for those kinds of initiatives and we stopped hearing about HIV. We are in a situation now where we have more effective drugs today to treat HIV but the problem is less talked about.”
Paradoxically, the availability of more effective treatment may have contributed to the drop in fear; as it appears that life even with HIV can now be made ‘manageable’, as it is not the clear death sentence it was two decades ago. All the same, no one should underestimate the impact on one’s health and quality of life. Doctor Ladislav Machala again:
“If a patient is responsible and takes the medication, the main thing becomes the treatment itself. The treatment is quite complicated: you have to take quite a bit of medication several times each day and you have to go for regular check-ups. But if you follow the programme, yes, you can lead a ‘fairly’ normal life.”
According to Doctor Machala, there is some good news ahead: the Health Ministry agreed this week to increase funds for preventive programmes, to make more people aware that HIV is still out there, that there is no cure, and to take steps: practicing safe sex or – if using illegal drugs – not sharing needles to prevent its spread.