Yesterday Flemish center for sexual health and HIV Sensoa invited the Belgian press in the Antwerp Shopping Stadsfeestzaal to present their analysis for 2009 regarding new HIV infections and unfortunately, they are still rising.
1.135: that's the number of people that were diagnosed with HIV in 2009 in Belgium and in the last decade the number of new infections has been balancing around the 1000 mark. Gay men remain the most important risk group, with 1 out of every 20 gay men in Belgium being seropositive now. This trend is mainly caused by the fact that the gay community is relatively small, which enhances the chance that your sexual partner might be infected. But Sensoa can also see a positive evolution: more people get tested right after having unsafe intercourse. This means that the number of late diagnosis is halved. Early diagnosis is very important in the war against new infections. People who know they are infected will hopefully adapt their sexual conduct and be careful not to infect their partner. The other advantage is that they can start earlier with an inhibitory treatment. Not only is this good for the person in question, it also reduces the chance that the disease will be passed on.
Belgian media figure Showbizz Bart also came to talk about the importance of safe sex, speaking about how much he enjoys the good things in life and can't imagine why someone would jeopardize this. Cavaria (LBGT organization in Flanders) highlighted the importance of stepping away from the stigmatized negative image that goes with HIV. People with HIV should feel like accepted members of society, so that they feel safe to disclose being infected and inspire people to have safe sex. These last two statements capture a big part of DAA's philosophy, so with that in mind we talked about our book that promotes pure beauty and our campaigns that keep the subject of HIV/AIDS alive in a positive way, instead of negative stigmatized perceptions. Our program manager Carsten talked about our future: the Education Center -that will open next week!- where young people from all over the world will learn how to spread the same message: Life is beautiful, take care of it and be safe.
UNAIDS also published their new HIV figures (an articile about that will be up on this website later today) and even though the presstoday is mostly talking about a 20% decline in new HIV infections worldwide, don't forget that this only goes for Africa: in the western world, new HIV diagnosis are still on the rise. Just use that condom, there's no excuse not to.