HIV Infections Up, Awareness of AIDS Down in Israel
December 4, 2009
About 390 persons in Israel were diagnosed with HIV last year, a small increase in the annual average of 350 new cases between 2004 and 2007. Officially, 4,525 people in the country are HIV-positive, though the World Health Organization suggests the actual number is 6,374.
Public health officials expect that in 2009, immigrants from Ethiopia will represent a smaller proportion of the country's HIV-positive population. The drop is attributed to good medical care for Ethiopians in Israel and a shrinking number of immigrants from Ethiopia overall.
Public attitudes in Israel support early testing. According to a study conducted by the Israel AIDS Task Force, 86 percent of residents believe pregnant women should be routinely offered HIV screening tests, and 78 percent of Israelis support free or subsidized rapid HIV testing.
Israel nevertheless faces challenges in HIV prevention. In the same task force poll, a quarter of those who have sex with a casual partner said they do not use a condom. The poll also uncovered widespread adherence to misinformation about HIV transmission.
A separate study found that HIV diagnoses often are made late in the course of the disease. Of HIV cases diagnosed at the Sheba Medical Center, about 35 percent were found too late for available medications to have maximum impact. Patients diagnosed late were disproportionately born outside Israel, female, suffering from a psychiatric disorder, heterosexual, and of lower educational achievement.
Israel's World AIDS Day activities included film screenings, concerts, and online initiatives. Booklets on AIDS and 30,000 condoms were distributed to soldiers as part of the effort.
11.29.2009; Judy Siegel-Itzkovich