AIDS in Georgia: 10 facts
1. HIV is no longer the death sentence
If one timely visits a doctor and starts treatment, it will considerably slow down the spread of infection. In other words, it is possible to stop spread of the virus using medicines and make sure that the virus no longer affects the immune system. The World Health Organization (WHO) officially states that in terms of the current treatment methods, HIV is not a fatal disease, but rather a chronic infection. If treated properly, HIV will not develop into AIDS.
2. State treatment
In Georgia, the state covers 100% of costs related to HIV-infected persons’ treatment.
3. The numbers are high
Over 6000 people are HIV-infected – this is an official figure and it is rather big for such a small country like Georgia. The actual rate is usually several times higher than the official one, but the AIDS Center finds it difficult to make any assumptions in this regard. The official figures are as follows: 6065 registered HIV-infected persons, including 4508 – men, 1557 – women. The age of the majority of infected is from 29 to 40.
4. Many are late with treatment
According to the official statistics, AIDS developed in 3399 HIV-patients, 1201 of them died.
5. On the average, patients are 2 years late
This is the Georgian AIDS Centre specialists’ estimate. They believe that delayed presentation, in general, is related to the ‘AIDS phobia’, prevalent in the society: there are people who suspect, they have HIV, but they are afraid to confirm the diagnosis, since they considering, they can in no way help themselves. Another reason is the low level of awareness of other profile physicians – sometimes they ping-pong their patients to various examinations and it does not even cross their mind to send them to the HIV test.
6. Number of HIV-infected steadily growing
351 new cases of HIV-infection were reported in 2008; 455 cases – in 2010; 564 – in 2014; 717 – in 2015 and 663 – in 2016.
7. Sex, not drugs
Sexual intercourse is the most common way of HIV transmission. 2 674 people in Georgia contracted HIV as a result of unprotected sexual intercourse. Earlier, it was considered that the infection was more often transmitted through drug injection. However, according to the statistical data as of November 2015, 2 491 people were infected that way (through drug injection).
8. More infected in Western Georgia rather than in country’s Eastern part
This is mostly due to the proximity of the borders and the fact that Samegrelo and Ajara residents frequently travel to Turkey. According to global statistics, the number of HIV infected people are always higher in the port cities – in case of Georgia, the matter concerns Poti and Batumi. The highest number of HIV infestion is in Tbilisi.
9. Most carriers learn about their status accidentally
‘My friends needed blood, so I decided to become a donor. I underwent a mandatory HIV test and it came like a bolt from the blue – it turned out that I was infected,’- Mariam, one of the patients at Georgian AIDS and Clinical Immunology Research Center, tells JAMnews.’Of course, I rechecked it – and yes, it turned out to be true. I am an ordinary Georgian housewife; I am married and have three children. It was very difficult for me to accept this new status.’
10. Psychological problems can be overcome
Of course, everything is individual, but, in general, the Georgian AIDS and Clinical Immunology Center specialists consider the following scheme to be the most efficient: instead of contacting a psychologist, a patient, who has recently learnt about his/her status (and therefore is depressed) should better communicate with another HIV-infected, who has been living with the HIV for years and who really feels well.