The number of registered cases of HIV in the Czech Republic jumped rapidly: in the first four months of 2014 almost one hundred new cases were registered. Although the Czech Republic still has a relatively low incidence of the deadly virus, the rising number of cases is a cause for concern.
Health officials have long warned that the low number of registered HIV cases in the Czech Republic was misleading. Although there are more than 2,200 known HIV sufferers in the country today, doctors have long warned the actual number could be significantly higher. What’s more, the numbers have so far rapidly gone up this year. The jump in cases so far in 2014 – 99 in the first four months alone – is alarming, not least when one considers the number is higher than all cases registered in all of 2006.
Ladislav Machala, the head of the AIDS Centre at Prague’s Bulovka Hospital, suggests several factors have contributed to the spike – chief among them promiscuity and a lack of fear of contracting the disease.
“The main factor continues to be promiscuous behaviour. But also, many newly-diagnosed young patients who come to me think we can treat HIV nowadays and that a cure should be available within a number of years... One reason [some people don’t take the threat seriously] is because they are no longer seeing their peers die… and it seems to them that people with HIV can live fairly normal and active lives.”
Particularly damaging over the last 15 years, Dr Machala and other professionals, say is that the country slumped when it came to a comprehensive AIDS prevention & awareness campaign. Funds were cut but cutting corners when it comes to prevention can only be a mistake. Dr Ladislav Machala again:
“I work with patients so I don’t have exact numbers… but it seems to me from what I have seen and heard is that campaigns lost their focus. Funds invested in education and awareness truly dropped, in part because the situation in the Czech Republic was initially so ‘well off’. But maybe we were better off initially because campaigns were introduced early.”
In the Czech Republic, men continue to outnumber women when it comes to HIV: 84 percent of the 2,221 HIV sufferers are males. Doctors continue to urge the all individuals, regardless of gender, to practice safe sex. But at this stage, with the numbers rising, many may be wondering if especially young people these days are getting the message.