6% rise in HIV cases in Georgia, which is believed to be attributed to the significant influx of migrants
The upsurge of HIV cases in Georgia
Tengiz Tsertsvadze, the director of Tbilisi Infectious Diseases Hospital, has called upon the population, particularly the youth, to diligently adhere to safety guidelines and recommendations to safeguard themselves from HIV infection.
As per Tsertsvadze, during the initial six months of 2023, in comparison to the same timeframe last year, there has been a 6% upswing in the number of newly reported cases of HIV/AIDS.
The doctor posts on his social media account that this surge could potentially be attributed to a notable rise in migration to Georgia.
Simultaneously, he notes that an examination of the fresh infections reveals
that the conclusion of the COVID-19 pandemic, the relaxation of constraints, and the amplified frequency of testing might also contribute to the phenomenon.
“In social media, concerns about Georgia’s vulnerability are being deliberated in light of the substantial influx of migrants, particularly from Russia and Ukraine, regions with a considerably high prevalence of HIV/AIDS. These concerns hold merit, particularly given the documented increase in new infection statistics,” writes Tsertsvadze.
The chief physician of the Infectious Diseases Hospital highlights that presently, Georgia stands as one of the most advanced countries, if not the foremost, in Eastern Europe regarding the treatment and care of individuals afflicted with HIV/AIDS.
● Over 86% of those infected with HIV are under stable antiretroviral therapy.
● Over 92% of them have achieved viral suppression, a factor that ensures their life expectancy is not curtailed. This guarantees them a favorable quality of life and, crucially for the broader population, they are essentially non-transmitters of the virus.
● Such patients are seamlessly integrated into society; they form families and give birth to healthy children.
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With the onset of the conflict in Ukraine and a pronounced upsurge in the migration of Russian and Ukrainian nationals to Georgia (since spring 2022), the AIDS surveillance service has intensified its oversight over the dissemination of HIV infection. Furthermore, stringent monitoring has been imposed on the delivery of preventive, therapeutic, and care services, a pivotal measure for upholding a healthy environment.
Tsertsvadze attests that they are actively engaged in collaboration with migrants to guarantee that all individuals identified as HIV-positive are promptly incorporated into the treatment and care framework.
He expressed satisfaction with the outcomes:
● In the past 18 months, 214 foreign nationals have undergone treatment, encompassing 91 Russians and 74 Ukrainians. In collaboration with the Global Fund, these patients are provided with complimentary antiretroviral medications. So far, these medications were solely accessible without charge to Georgian citizens.
● As per the state’s decision, 20 Ukrainian citizens also receive cost-free medical services relevant to their condition.
Georgia has committed to concluding the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030, aiming to reduce new HIV infections to zero. Every effort will be undertaken to ensure that the escalation of migration processes does not undermine the attainment of this ambitious objective, asserts Tengiz Tsertsvadze.
Warnings from a Georgian infectious disease specialist
On June 29, Georgian infectious disease specialist Maia Butsashvili issued the following cautionary statement through her social media platform:
“As you are aware, a significant number of individuals have entered the country from Russia. While this presents a substantial political concern, I would like to focus on the risks pertaining to my field of expertise.
Many of my new patients from Russia, both male and female, report having Georgian sexual partners. Given the considerably high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Russia, it is my view that the potential for rapid transmission of this infection within Georgia should be seriously considered. It is evident that the Ministry of Health should acknowledge this risk and implement appropriate measures.
We must actively inform others to steer clear of questionable relationships and to remain cognizant of the substantial risk of sexual transmission of AIDS and other infections.”