Human Rights / Health

Hıv Cases Rise, Discrimination Against Patients Still A Problem

Tuesday, July 19, 2011
While many countries seem to have controlled the spread of HIV, statistics show that Turkey is still suffering from the disease and from ignorance. ‘There are no informative courses for high school students, but many have sex,’ says one expert
‘Some 5,000 people in Turkey have become infected with HIV,’ says Nejat Ünlü from the Positive Life Foundation, adding that Turkey is a hotbed of the disease as a place where 25 million tourists visit every year. AFP photo

‘Some 5,000 people in Turkey have become infected with HIV,’ says Nejat Ünlü from the Positive Life Foundation, adding that Turkey is a hotbed of the disease as a place where 25 million tourists visit every year. AFP photo
Neither discrimination against HIV nor the number of the patients has decreased in years unlike in developed countries, according to the head of a nongovernmental organization who accused the Ministry of Health of not taking the issue seriously.
 
Nejat Ünlü, head of the Positive Life Foundation, or PYD said there was an increase in the numbers of HIV patients, contrary to the general decrease in the world.
 
“Some 5,000 people have been infected by HIV according to official records, while the number was 4,525 last year,” said Ünlü. Also, he said Turkey wass a hotbed of the disease as a bridge where 25 million tourists gather every year, also welcoming people from Ukraine and Uzbekistan, where there are many HIV patients.
 
A target of disease
“If you consider there are many unregistered employees in Turkey from these countries, we can say that with its young population Turkey is a target of the disease,”
 
According to the World Health Organization, or WHO, research, Ünlü said, the real numbers of the patients are 10 times more than official numbers, because many purposely do not go to the hospital to avoid being registered due to the concerns of their disease being official.
 
People from anywhere are facing discrimination in Turkey, for instance the prisoners who have HIV are isolated or cannot take their medicines in prison conditions, he said.
 
“Despite the rising numbers of the patients, the Health Ministry has no activity program on the issue. We have a national HIV commission, which did not even meet for three years since it was established."
 
 “We do not know how many people died related to the disease, or how many are receiving treatment,” he said adding that the ministry should give consultancy service to the patients as many do not even know about the disease.
 
Consultancy service
Ünlü said that even if the test results are negative, the ministry should provide a consultancy services for people: “We are so ignorant on the issue, because there are no courses for students at high schools, but many are having sexual intercourse during this time.”
 
Emphasizing the importance of the education, Ünlü said that they received much criticism from parents when distributing condoms at youth festivals. “We are not promoting sex, but trying to prevent our youth from being infected by the disease,” he added.
 
He also noted that there should be free health centers where people could take the tests for free.
 
Professor Deniz Gökengin, from the Ege University Infectious Diseases Department, told the Daily News that the disease could be treated; however, the drugs are expensive and some drugs cannot be imported as the Health Ministry did not approve importing some drugs.
 
Contrary to Ünlü’s statements, Gökengin believes that the government is now focusing on the issue and that Gökengin is happy due to the new projects of the ministry.
 
“Patients should continue with the treatment. Even if the treatment stops for a while, all the effort is frustrating as the virus become stronger in recess,” he said.
(Hürriyet Daily News)
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