Cuba and HIV-AIDS (+ Infographic)

Many myths have been woven around the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS, since it was discovered last century. Actually, it was something unknown, which caused death, and many people showed antihuman reactions towards these patients, especially out of ignorance.

Those who carried the virus and later fell ill were subjected to discrimination, stigmatization, to the brink of the frankly irrational. That's how it was (remember the North American film Philadelphia).

The world panicked, when the factor that caused death was yet unknown.

Since then, science has taken a leap of progress and today - even when a definitive cure hasn’t been found yet- one can live with HIV, live a socially useful life, where family support is essential.

Communities make a difference

However, the behavior of societies has not walked the same path as the scientific field. Therefore this health issue, one of the most widespread and dramatic worldwide still hurts HIV positive patients; that is, those who HIV in their system.

Let’s clarify that bot all HIV positive patients suffer from AIDS. It only indicates that the virus is in your bloodstream and may end up triggering the syndrome.

On the sidelines of modern life, prejudices are still present, which is why the celebration of World AIDS Day, a special moment to raise awareness about the disease and those who suffer from it, becomes especially important every December 1st.

Since 1988, the disease has killed more than 25 million people worldwide.

"Communities make the difference" is the slogan selected worldwide for this 2019.

The international call to celebrate this date highlights that communities contribute to the AIDS response in different ways, ensuring that people remain at the center and that no one is left behind.

It also highlights that in these communities are integrated educators, the networks of people living with HIV or affected by the virus like gays and other men who have sex with men, people who do drugs, sex workers, women and youth, advisors, health workers, civil society organizations and popular activists.

On the other hand, it highlights that every time financing is cut short, which endangers the sustainability of the services. “More than ever before, today it’s necessary the defense lead by communities to ensure that AIDS remains in the political agenda, that human rights must be respected and that those who make decisions and put them into practice take responsibilities”.

Cuba shows the best indicators in the region

In Cuba, since 1986 when the first evidence of the disease appeared, the Cuban State and Government have paid special attention to this problem, which has influenced the prevalence of HIV infection the lowest in Latin America and the Caribbean, and one of the lowest in the Western Hemisphere, with 0.2-0.3% of the population between ages 15-49; also among the lowest in the world.

The previous information, published in Cubadebate, was provided by Barbara Venegas, an official in the STDs, HIV and Hepatitis department, of the National Epidemiology Department of the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP).

He explained that HIV transmission has been controlled in children under 14, in heterosexual women and men, as well as maternal and child HIV, and congenital syphilis.

By the end of 2018 in Cuba, 25,494 people lived with HIV, and in this year 80% of the cases diagnosed are male, a large number of them have sex with other men (MSM).

The report by Lisandra Fariñas also points out that HIV-AIDS mortality decreases in the country; the 87.3% of patients receive treatment and 87% of them had an early diagnosed.

A huge step forward this year has been decentralizing the diagnosis. “Now all provinces confirm their cases, which enables that samples don’t travel to other territories, human resources, reagents are optimized. There’s greater chance in the diagnosis, and in turn we can give people more treatment and connect them to medical care", said Venegas.

The latest national survey on HIV / AIDS Infection Prevention Indicators (ran in mid-year 2017) and published by the National Office of Statistics and Information indicates that anal sex is one of the sexual practices that entails increased risk of infection as well as the fact
of sexual relations between more than two people.

Doctors and specialists report the importance in the systematic use of condom to reduce the risk of HIV infection, a practice that the Cuban population has gradually acquired. However, its availability and presence in drug stores and other places where the population can buy them is necessary.

The Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 also include working to end several epidemics, including AIDS.

On the way to this goal, Cuba has joined the 90-90-90 goals for 2030. That is, 90% of people diagnosed, 90% of them treated, and 90% with the viral suppression.

The challenge of all human beings living with HIV is to adhere to these treatments. It’s a chronic, transmissible disease, but with which you can live fully.


  • Published in Specials

Cuba with several achievements in the fight against AIDS

Cuba today celebrates the World Day for the Fight against HIV/AIDS with several results, among them that WHO ratified the certification for eliminating the transmission of this disease from mother to child and congenital syphilis .

The expert committee of the World Health Organization (WHO) in charge of validation highlighted as an impressive achievement in public health that the island maintained that condition uninterruptedly since it was granted in 2015.

As explained on the social networks by Cuban Minister of Public Health (Minsap), José Angel Portal, the international health organization highlighted Cuba's solid experience and commitment to the elimination of mother-to-child transmission.

Other Cuban achievements are being the nation of Latin America with the lowest HIV / AIDS prevalence, maintaining transmission control in children under 14, heterosexual men and women and early detection of the disease, Bárbara Venegas, Official of the Department of STI / AIDS and Hepatitis of the Epidemiology Department of Minsap, told reporters.

With respect to the goal 90-90-90 set by Cuba for the year 2020 (that 90 percent of the patients know their serological status, that same figure has access to treatments, as well as eliminating almost 100 percent of the transmission, with a minimal viral load) stressed that 87-86-73.8 has been reached, respectively.

Currently, cases can be diagnosed in any part of the national territory, which allows the optimization of resources and faster and more effective medical care.

Venegas reported that of the total 26 thousand 952 people living with HIV in the country, 80 percent are male and 82 are between 20 and 54 years old, while 87 percent were diagnosed in a stadium early disease, which allowed us to offer timely treatment.

The specialist said in Cuba the most affected are transsexual women (19.7 percent), men who have sex with other men (5.6 percent) and those who exercise transnational sex (2.8percent).

Among the activities that will be carried out in Havana, national headquarters for the event, there is a mobilization in social networks for the prevention of STI-HIV/AIDS and a cultural gala in the Avellaneda hall of the National Theater, on which occasion they will deliver the Esperanza Awards, recognition of the promoters' work in health prevention.

The first time World AIDS Day was celebrated was in 1988 and since that date, the virus has killed more than 32 million people worldwide, representing one of the most destructive epidemics in world history.

WHO data indicates that the growing access to prevention, diagnosis, treatment and effective care has allowed HIV infection to be a chronic health problem with the possibility of a long and otherwise healthy life.

This year, the international day, sponsored by WHO, has the motto 'Communities make a difference' to highlight how the promotional and preventive work carried out in these places helps prevent the spread of this pandemic.

  • Published in Cuba

Nearly one million people living with HIV in Brazil

A total of 966,058 people have HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) in Brazil, according to data released by the Health Ministry on the occasion of the World Day of the Fight against AIDS to be celebrated tomorrow.

According to the portfolio, these cases were detected from 1980 to June 2019, and about 135,000 people are currently living with HIV without knowing it.

In recent years, HIV infection has grown among young people, with most cases reported in the 20-34 age group, with 18,200 cases (57.5 percent).

Only last year, 43,900 new cases of HIV were registered in Brazil.

Faced with this situation, the Government launched a campaign for people at risk of being infected to seek a health unit to perform a rapid test and detect if they are infected.

The Ministry assured that when a patient infected with the virus receives the appropriate treatment, his viral load can become undetectable. When this happens, it is considered that there is not enough infection to be transmissible.

With the new campaign, the Government seeks to make young people aware of the importance of prevention, testing and treatment against the disease.

  • Published in World

Scientists discover new way that HIV evades the immune system

Scientists have just discovered a new mechanism by which HIV evades the immune system, and which shows precisely how the virus avoids elimination. The new research shows that HIV targets and disables a pathway involving a number of biological molecules that are key in blocking viral activity and clearing infection.

HIV remains a major global health problem, with over 40 million people infected worldwide. And while people living with HIV have been treated with anti-retroviral therapy for over 30 years, this favoured therapeutic option merely prevents the progression of the disease to AIDS - it doesn't cure patients of HIV.

The discovery, which opens the door to a new era of HIV research focused on curing people living with the , has just been published in international journal, EBioMedicine, which is a collaborative online journal from Cell Press and the Lancet.

During any viral our immune system produces a powerful molecule (Interferon), which 'interferes' with the infection and the replication of viruses. Interferon activates an assembly line of molecules in our cells—via the Interferon signalling pathway - which causes the body to make antivirals that help to clear the infection.

However, when patients are being treated with anti-retroviral therapy, HIV is not fully cleared by our immune system. Therefore, the scientists from Trinity College Dublin behind the research investigated whether HIV was somehow blocking the Interferon signalling pathway and thus avoiding the immune response that is designed to cure viral infection. The findings confirmed their suspicions.

Assistant Professor in Immunology at Trinity, Nigel Stevenson, led the work. He said: "We discovered that HIV promotes the destruction of the anti-viral Interferon signalling pathway. Essentially, HIV uses the machinery in our own cells to do this, and the virus is thus able to reduce the production of many important anti-viral molecules. Without these anti-viral , our immune system can't clear ."

"Our new revelation sheds new light on how HIV avoids elimination, which, in turn, may explain why HIV is still not a curable disease. We feel this discovery could mark a paradigm shift in our understanding of how this virus evades our . It should open the door to a new era of HIV research aiming to cure and eradicate this deadly virus."

ISIS AIDS-bombs: Plans to send 16 HIV-positive fighters on suicide missions

The Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group plans to send 16 of its fighters on suicide missions after they were tested positive for AIDS, a Syrian source claimed.

The fighters are currently in quarantine in a hospital in the city of Mayadeen in the eastern Syrian province of Deir ez-Zor, the Kurdish Syrian ARA news reported.

“Most of those infected are foreign militants who had sexual intercourse with two Moroccan women. The women passed on the disease to the militants before their infection was revealed. We were ordered by the group’s local leadership to transfer the infected militants to a quarantine center in the city,” the agency cited a local Syrian doctor as saying.

The doctor said the two women escaped to Turkey fearing they would be executed for giving the disease to IS fighters.

The leaders of the group ordered screen tests for AIDS for their troops in the province and are planning to get rid of those who are infected, the report said.

“IS leadership is planning to assign suicide attacks for its militants who are tested positive with AIDS,” a civil rights activist in al-Mayadeen told the agency.

The report said a similar outbreak of AIDS happened in the IS-controlled city of Shaddadi in Hasakah province in the spring, after an Indonesian fighter passed the disease to a sex slave who was later sold on. The man, who also donated blood for transfusion, was reportedly executed in June.

Islamic State is a radical Islamist group that has announced a caliphate straddling Iraq and Syria. The US is leading a coalition of nations in a bombing campaign designed to weaken IS and allow allied troops on the ground to destroy them, but so far the effort has had limited success.

Cuba Has Officially Eradicated HIV Transmission to Babies

The World Health Organizaiton says Cuba has just scored a huge victory in the global battle against HIV and syphilis. Cuba became the first country in the world Tuesday to be recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) for eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.

“This is a major victory in our long fight against HIV and sexually transmitted infections, and an important step towards having an AIDS-free generation” said Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General.

According to the WHO, Cuba's mother-to-child transmission rate of HIV is now below 2 percent of births, while syphilis transmission is less than 0.5 percent. Just two babies were born with HIV in Cuba in 2013, while 5 were born with syphilis, according to figures verified by the WHO and the Pan American Health Organization.

Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of the United Nations program UNAIDS, described Cuba's achievement as “a celebration for children and families everywhere.”

“It shows that ending the AIDS epidemic is possible and we expect Cuba to be the first of many countries coming forward to seek validation that they have ended their epidemics among children,” Sidibe said.

The WHO first announced they believed Cuba would be eligible for recognition in March, but until now has withheld confirmation while it conducted an in-depth review of the country's health data.

Worldwide, close to 1.4 million women with HIV become pregnant every year. Without specialized treatment, there is a 15-45 percent chance a HIV positive mother will pass the disease to their baby, either before birth or during breast feeding. Comparably, around 1 million women with syphilis become pregnant, according to the WHO.

In a statement, the WHO said Cuba's milestone in combating these two diseases was achieved through guaranteed comprehensive prenatal care for mothers, including testing for HIV and syphilis.

“These services are provided as part of an equitable, accessible and universal health system in which maternal and child health programs are integrated with programs for HIV and sexually transmitted infections,” the statement read.

The milestone shows that the fight against some of the world's worst diseases is winnable, according to Pan American Health Organization director Carissa Etienne.

“Cuba’s success demonstrates that universal access and universal health coverage are feasible and indeed are the key to success, even against challenges as daunting as HIV,” Etienne said.

  • Published in Cuba

HIV: Until it Happens

HIV risk awareness in Cuba is low. Despite the stability in the figures of new infections, it’s necessary to keep working in the effective protection against the epidemic.

It doesn't happen until it happens, that simple. HIV risk awareness in Cuba is still low. Most of the new infected people are related with that circumstance.

I will be spared—it seems to be the instinct.

According to sources at the Ministry of Public Health, the largest incidence is among youths between 20-29 years, mainly men who have had sex with other men.

Propaganda campaigns are plentiful in television, radio and other media… still many have sexual relationships without wearing condoms.

The figures speak for themselves: 1 600 new patients receive antiretroviral therapy in 2014. There is not a great increase in comparison to last year, but the amount is considerable.

A question arises: is there disinformation about this subject? This doesn't seem to be the case. Instruction levels in Cuba are high; most of the population has full access to the media.

Most of those infected simply trusted, thought they would be spared, they didn't take the elementary protective measures.

The domestic panorama indicates that the epidemic makes no discrimination among cultural or economic levels; but a large number of the new patients are men who had had sex with other men, many times at meeting places, in situations that at times invite negligence.

The situation is complicated, it has many angles.

Many of the men found in meeting places do it because they don't have other places to have sex.

And others—and this is a figure not to discard—do it for the mere pleasure of living the fling.

These practices are hard “to control”. The attempt of controlling them could carry out even incomprehension and irregularities of the authorities involved.

It’s clear that the educational campaigns have overlooked this fact.

It’s really striking the candor of many of the messages and posters. For the poorly informed spectator, watching the everyday characters on the television spots, the HIV problem in Cuba is manifested equally in men and women.


The actions must be more intentional, it’s necessary to identify a public, at least on the media.

Obviously, the epidemic doesn't distinguish genders, sexual orientation (regrettably many still think HIV is only a thing for homosexuals), but it’s indispensable to be more kin in health promoting programs.

To achieve this goal a few prejudicial barriers must be broken in our people.

Past beyond the recommendations on the relevancy of certain sex practices—that at present can or can’t regarded—, the most effective means of protection is still wearing a condom.

Condoms distribution has faced specific problems in the last months in drugstores, but the figures show that infections are not directly related with this shortage, but with the lack of culture on the use of the condom.

A total of 11.400 Cubans infected with HIV or who have developed AIDS receive antiretroviral treatment at the moment in the island.

The need is large, but sometimes it is necessary to struggle with the shortage of some medications.

The head of the department for Prevention and Control of STD/AIDS at Minsap, María Isela Lantero, pointed out in statement to Prensa Latina that Cuba has passed a national plan of response for the next five years, following WHO’s recommendations.

That entity advises that antiretroviral treatment begins in the earliest stages in the disease, hence the importance of a quick detection.

Despite many people’s reticence to undergo traditional services for HIV testing, this year more than two million tests have been carried out to detect the virus.

The presence of HIV /Aids in the country is 0, 12%, in the population group of 15-49 years. At first sight this might seem a moderate figure, but the fact that the tendency remains stable makes us rethink some strategies.

The goal, although farfetched d, is that the number of new infections come closer to zero.

Contrary to other epidemics, HIV control does count with true means and sure at some extent.

It is mostly a matter of education. The challenge is settled.

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