From January 1980 to May this year, in Puerto Rico 50,163 cases of HIV have been reported, a disease that last year caused 364 new diagnoses. Meanwhile, one to two people in the country are infected daily with this virus that damages the immune system of the affected person through the destruction of white blood cells that fight infections.
Men having sex with men it was the most affected population, according to the most recent statistics from the Department of Health, followed by heterosexual contact, reported Dr. Jorge Santana Bagur, director and principal investigator of the ACTU Project.
The ACTU Project or the AIDS Clinical Research Unit It is part of a network of clinical research centers on this disease at different universities in the United States, Puerto Rico, Brazil and Italy. In Puerto Rico, the ACTU Project is attached to the Department of Medicine of the School of Medicine of the Campus of Medical Sciences of the University of Puerto Rico. This project is sponsored by the National Institute of Health and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“The times of COVID-19 have modified the campaigns for massive tests of HIV and have made us modify the way of offering the services. The availability to do the test is maintained, the way of offering the test is different, "said Santana Bagur at a press conference to announce the National Day of HIV Testing that will take place this Saturday.
According to Dr. Irma Febo, also a researcher of the ACTU Project and director of the GAMMA Unit, in the last ten years men between 20 and 35 years are the most at risk of HIV infection in Puerto Rico.
"Young people do not feel at risk of contagion, "said Febo, who warned that the stage of initiation of sexual intercourse is one of the highest risk of infection with this virus.
According to Febo, it is urgent that young people with risky behaviors take the test HIV tests to identify if they are infected so that they can access medical treatment and services as soon as possible.
The initial recommendation, he said, is to get a rapid antibody test as a screening test. If it is positive, then a confirmatory blood test proceeds, he highlighted.
While, within the orientation offered by the Unit, Febo warned that he educates himself on the use of condoms and other methods and treatments that can be used as HIV prevention, as well as the possibility of participating in clinical prevention studies.
For her part, Dr. Carmen Zorrilla, also a researcher at the Unit and director of the Center for Maternal and Child Study (CEMI), commented that the tests of HIV provides an opportunity to identify infected people in the early stages and offer treatments, which have been shown to be effective through multiple studies.
"A person on treatment with undetectable viral load does not transmit HIV," he said.  All three researchers reported that those interested in taking the free rapid HIV test should contact 787-384-6177.