2018 left nearly 7,000 new HIV diagnoses, so that the population of Chileans living with this disease, according to data from the Institute of Public Health (ISP), is already in the 40 thousand.
But, according to the latest estimates, there are another 40 thousand who do not know that they live with HIV, something that worries the authorities, health professionals and that should trigger the alarms of people who do not know their status.
For decades, the lack of information and debate, discrimination and stigma in our society have made HIV positive people invisible, undermining their position as common and current members of our environment.
But how terrible is living with HIV today in Chile? What happens after diagnosis and confirmation of the second sample? What happens to love and sex life being positive? We hope the testimonials in this note will clear your doubts, or that you will see some similarity if the virus is part of your life.
Gaspar and his neighbor
Gaspar is 26, a teacher, who lives in Santiago and was diagnosed with HIV more than a year ago after acquiring the virus. condom sex with a neighbor.
"I always thought that if I had HIV, it would be a death sentence for me, but getting the diagnosis did not cause what I expected. In fact, I did not even cry and feel that I took it more maturely just because I had one little knowledge of the benefit of the antiretroviral treatment that was taking place around me, "Gaspar told BioBioChile (BBCL)
"The same thing is strong when you already know you have HIV and you want to have a serious relationship with someone.I actually locked myself in my world and did not want to meet anyone lovingly.but when my current partner talked to me, I decided to try and then of three consultations I told him I had HIV but that this was undetectable, "he said.
"At that moment I thought he would leave me talking to himself and he would leave. On the contrary, he adopted her in a relaxed way and told me that he would not leave me and that's how we started our relationship in a serious way. We are 2 years and 4 months old.. On the contrary, mine is not positive ", revealed the professor.
In line with the above, he acknowledged that caring for sex is essential, especially use of condoms and lubricants, those who stay free and monthly at the health center where they perform their therapy.
Iancu Cordescu is the executive director of the Chile Positivo Foundation and has been a couple for some time. Both have HIV, but they met at the time of being diagnosed, according to BBCL.
In her opinion, the search process – both stable partners and sexual encounters – is complex depending on how much information the other person administers."It happened to me that I had a stick that was negative and he had no problem because he knew what HIV was, he knew we always had to use a condom and that was not a topic, "he said.
"Right now my partner is also HIV positive, we know what care we take to keep from reinfecting ourselves. So talking to the person about the diagnosis to generate more links, that person becomes a member of the support network that I have, has been important, "he said.
Even so, Cordescu has had experiences that are far from the relationship he maintains today. "There is no shortage of those who have left and do not know what HIV is. That is where the worries come in."
Having already gone through part of this way of life, Cordescu acknowledged his responsibility because, to be a person "who knew what HIV was, who knew how it was transmitted, had many friends who lived with HIV, makes the decision not to use a condom was what finally generated that I got the virus (…). my my fault is to have lost the perception of risk against the virus "he admitted.
Although, in part, he has also criticized the sex education he did not receive at home or at school. "There was a lot of modesty," he recalls. So he said that "talking about sex today is very important because it will allow us to reduce stigma associated with the virus, the STD. "
"I would like to have a Comprehensive Sexual Education Act in the future which translates into actions in the school, the public way. The communication campaigns that the government has developed are not enough: despite having many resources, they are not attacking the objective population, "he criticized.
"Normalize the use of condoms, We will deliver it everywhere., discos, colleges, parks, because sex is practiced in any space, not only in a bedroom and a bed, so you do not have to go to an office and ask for an hour with a midwife to pick up three condoms. "
Carlos is a biologist, pansexual, part of the Circle of Students Living with HIV (Cevvih) and described his history as "private, the ideal of many." Because? Because he was lucky enough to be surrounded by informed people.
"I rarely had unprotected intercourse on penetration," he said, but was infected during his second year of doctoring after a girl left him without further explanation. This crisis was mixed with "Five minutes of freedom", as he described.
"I do not know how I got it. I have two chances how could it have been: I had a touch and go with one boy and the other is that I had a & # 39; relationship & # 39; five months with a girl and the last time we had sex was without a condom, "he explained. "He was one of those two people through whom I got it. In August, it's three years."
And how did you know? He went on a routine examination and received all exams except HIV, which led him to have "The worst week of your life" not because he suspected a positive outcome was coming, but simply because he did not know what was happening. "No one told me anything," he reminded her.
"I understood that it was a virus that has treatment and that the transmission is blocked, but the anguish made me seek help from a friend – a little conservative – and her first reaction was incredible: give me a hug, very comforting," she said .
With this same one traveled to a congress in its area of study, with its husband and son. "At no point did he prevent the child from playing with me, jumping on top of me, that I put my fingers in his mouth and this was very comfortable because it made me feel that when there is knowledge, there is no discrimination. That was fundamental to me. "
Perhaps the only bitter experience was when he went to Isapre to activate pathology 18 of the GES basket. The caregiver assured her that those infected with HIV tended to be irresponsible in their treatment and that "cause uproar" when drugs are unavailable due to lack of organization.
He saw it twice, and although Carlos gave him his hand to say hello or goodbye, he never accepted.
He currently has a date with a girl who knows her status and sexual orientation. "There we are," he said.
Luz had AIDS and did not know
Luz studies law in Concepción, is 24 years old, is heterosexual, was diagnosed in 2015 and, like Carlos, participates in Cevvih.
He also has a my fault, in fact, is the same as the previous testimonies: have not used condoms with an expololo that did not know its serologic status. "That was the problem," he snapped.
But like Cordescu, he believes that the underlying theme is the context in which he grew up. His school, evangelical like his parents, offered abstention sex education, just it.
"It's not that I blame the rest, but they never talked to me about condoms, my parents never told me about it either," she said. However, Luz considers that she liked her sexuality. "Like any young girl, I did the test and tested positive no more."
But the result was stoned: the CD4 lymphocyte count – the cells that HIV attacks – was well below what is considered abnormal (96), that is, I was in the AIDS stage. Why did not he notice? Luz is an asymptomatic patient.
However, starting the test in the first place was another "Via crucis": her gynecologist did not want to give her the order because she was heterosexual. "Prejudices," Luz said.
"When I found out, I went with my mother, I thought I could have anything but HIV, they took me to a small room and they told me I was positive."
He tested at a private center where he received no pre or post counseling. "I was adrift and as far as we are concerned, when you are heterosexual, he sees you away, so I had no information, I did not know there were any remedies. I was thinking for a week that I was going to dieWe were in the nineties, "he said.
"After I was informed, I decided to go to Santiago and started therapy immediately. One month after taking the therapy was already undetectable, so it is so important to take the medication."
Over time he had to change therapy and went from three tablets a day to just one. He did not have major problems with medications, in addition to vomiting and dizziness at first. What yes, their defenses respond very seriously to very mild situations. "I was hospitalized for a common cold, an allergy, gastroenteritis. This gives me a small allergy and the whole skin is affected," he said.
currently is dating a boy, who did not manifest problems with his status. "I had couples and wandering, as we do not talk about the subject we do not know that there is undetectability, which means that it is not transferable when a person knows their serostatus and takes their medication in a responsible way," he concluded.
It is clear that heterosexuals find it more difficult to accept that they are living with HIV. due to the stigma that weighs on the disease, something exclusive of the gay world.
"I had a friend with HIV, I knew it was a chronic disease, that he was not going to die. I think he became aware and thought it will never happenespecially when there is confidence, "he said.
J got the virus after finishing it with a couple of years and being with a girl after two weeks without using protection or asking for tests.
Over the months he began to feel sick and went through a number of clinics, but he was never tested for HIV until at another private center they did so and he was eventually diagnosed.
In fact, that girl transmitted the virus without knowing what it was. Her ex-partner had infected her and she never knew. Although he is a bachelor today, and has only dated someone since he was diagnosed – almost three and a half years ago, on national holidays – have you ever had two HIV-negative partners.
"At the beginning inside, but little by little they were informing. The best advice is to take therapy, to be a watch, which makes you instransmisible, "he said." You have to get a condom. And if you are dating someone, you have to take care of yourself not only for HIV but also for other sexually transmitted diseases, "he added.
J does not rule out having a family, he knows that he can be a father without transmitting the virus to his partner or the fruit of that relationship. "Life is much more normal than people think, There is so much myth ", he finished.
Lucas Núñes is 24 years old, is another member of Cevvih, studied Visual Arts and Aesthetics in parallel at the Catholic University and was diagnosed with HIV in April 2018.
How did you know? "I was diagnosed by a acute retroviral syndrome and I was hospitalized for a week and a few days because they thought I had meningitis, "he said in the interview.
"From there it was very strong because I do not have enough information, I thought it would be worse, that my body would deteriorate further, but in the end the contrary happened, "he added, evaluating the support of his friends who accompanied him from the beginning.
The above, especially when it comes to telling his family: not only did he have to report that he had the virus, He also had to make his homosexuality transparent. Double hit, at least in many homes in Chile.
"At first it was complex because, apart from not having more information (the one I finally got), my mother cried a lot, it was difficult." His mother, in fact, I thought I was going to die. since he assimilated HIV to weight loss, pale people, dying humans, with spotted skin.
To make matters worse, Lucas recalled that the second rigorous take had to do so repeatedly because in the hospital they lost the sample. "The procedure has been postponed for four months, and now I'm fine, I'm calm, but when I did not have the treatment, that time was for me to be afraid and not know what to do," he recalled.
In your case, there is also mea culpa: Do not use condoms in the face of an overconfidence that should never have existed, he said in a phone call. "He did not know his status," he added.
Lucas is currently a bachelor, but shortly after being diagnosed, he met someone who helped him not feel embarrassed or afraid of relating sexually to other people. Despite this, two people have discriminated against him for HIV, even though he is on treatment.
Previous stories show how progress has been made in health, the social field and in improving the quality of life of people living with the virus, panorama that distance diamentrichamente of the eighties and nineties.
This was stipulated by Guillermo Moscoso, a visual artist from Concepción who, a few years ago, developed HIV / AIDS-related themes in his work, precisely "for make visible social problems They are in crisis in our society, body, memory and territory, "he said.
Your reason? "In the mid and late nineties, friends started dying because of AIDS, a situation that led me to reflect and record in my work the mechanism of discrimination and stigma in force in the country society around this disease. The challenge was to visualize various biopolitical processes of the bodies invisible by the epidemic, "he explained.
"Twenty years ago, people living with HIV in the AIDS phase were condemned to
physical death, because there was no universal coverage of
antiretrovirals, "he lamented.
The above, due to a series of factors that were interconnected: "The care services for the affected were precarious both in infrastructure and medical staff, lack of sex education and AIDS prevention by the Government, the powers of the state, religion in general engage in a genocide for denying campaigns educational AIDS prevention and therefore a long etc. "
In the face of the above, the artist stressed that the HIV situation has improved so much, "it was a struggle that all of us activists gave at the national level, the AIDS law was promulgated and then became the guarantee of GES. discrimination and stigma are still valid, with poor educational campaign of the Ministry of Health, "shot Moscoso.
Thus, in his opinion, "the high rates of notifications in recent years are a reflection of wrong public policies, lack of sex education in the curricula of the Ministry of Education, lack of information on citizens."
For Moscoso too It bothers you that the language used when talking about HIV is often the wrong one, as for example when a transmission is classified as contagion. He also does not like to hear terms such as carrier and even infected.
To do this "add xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia. Speeches and declarations of citizenship in general leave much to be desired. It is preferable to speak of people living with HIV / AIDS rather than carriers or infected. HIV is acquired, it is not contagious. People living with HIV / AIDS are not carriers of anything, coexist with a virus that violates them, and is even more bearable today than diabetes. Living with HIV / AIDS is not a burden that must be taken to atone for some kind of sin, clearly from the Judeo-Christian view of our society, "Moscoso concluded.
In contact with the vice president of the Chilean Society of Infectious Diseases, Claudia Cortés, the infectologist and medical doctor of the University of Chile said that today, in Chile, no one dies of HIV… provided you are diagnosed on time and follow your therapy accordingly..
In particular, explained the expert, HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus that only transmitted from person to person, mainly through sexual, vertical (from mother to child) and sharing syringes for intravenous drug dependence.
AIDS, on the other hand, is the clinical stage where the defenses are so deteriorated that the body is at the mercy of catching other infections, such as severe pneumonia or diarrhea.
"Not everyone who has HIV evolves into AIDS, but everyone at this stage has HIV," he explained.
In Chile, the 99% of the cases correspond to sexually, ie vaginal, anal and oral sex, between heterosexuals and homosexuals: HIV does not distinguish sexual orientation.
However, in oral sex, the risk is lower and depends on the existence of lesions in the oral cavity or genitals and the amount of fluids involved. When there is contact with lesions that have visible blood, it increases.
"But this practice can convey other things, herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea, not just HIV, "Cortes warned.
According to data from the ISP, in 2018 there were almost 7 thousand new diagnoses. "There are almost 1,100 more patients compared to 2017," Galena said.
As for the behavior, Cortés said, men who have sex with men will always have the greatest risk, being the most important group, which fluctuates between 18 and 35 years.
The above, as documented in the international literature, has to do with the fact that this specific group tends to have more number of sexual partners. The more contacts there are, the greater the chances of acquiring the virus.
But older adults (over 50 when they talk about the virus), despite being between 10% and 15% of the population living with HIV, have increased for at least 6 or 8 years.
He has two reasons behind. "Now people with HIV live many more years and therefore become older adults." Before young people died because there was no treatment. Today it is a chronic infection that, with treatment, people can have a similar life expectancy of the population in general, "Cortes said.
"If you have HIV and share your treatment on time, you can live up to 80. Twenty years ago you were going to die in 5," he added.
"The other way is that Are you infected as an adult?. This is basically because the sexual life of the elderly has been extended thanks to drugs like Viagra, which allows people who previously had no biological ability to have sex now, "he said.
"Then they grow old and some are infected and live until they are old"encompassed
Consistent with the testimonies of the onset, and based on the fact of carrying the therapy forward and taking care of them, the chain of transmission is cut, Cortes made it clear that a seropositive can lead a "completely normal"That's what I tell all the patients I've just diagnosed: if you're orderly, what we call adherence to treatment, if you take your medicines every day, you can have a completely normal sex life, "he reiterated.
"We ask all of our patients to keep using condoms because effective HIV treatment serves only to prevent transmission of HIV, not syphilis, of gonorrhea, "he warned.
"But I can have children and plan a pregnancy. The risk that if I do everything correctly, as it should be, a baby born with HIV is less than 1%. So if I am a woman living with HIV, or I am a man and my partner has HIV, or I am a man and I have HIV and my wife does not, there is a real and certain possibility of having children, "he said. he.
Although in the same context, doing nothing, the possibilities of vertical transmission reach 50%.
As for the future prospects for HIV in Chile, the specialist has delivered a series of measures that, in her opinion, are essential for dealing with the virus, starting with a "Education of Responsible Sexuality, which is non-existent in this country from an early age ".
"This involves the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, families, etc. We have to teach our children to maintain a responsible sex life. make diagnostics, test as many as possible. All people who have had sexual contact in their life have the risk, "he said.
"What UNAIDS estimates is that 40,000 live with the virus and do not know it. If we were extremely efficient in the diagnosis and everyone did the test, which is the big problem that Chile has now, this 2019 would end with a gigantic number because we surrounded them. After 2020, we would have very few, "said Cortes, although he said that, unfortunately, it is a fantasy.
"Unlikely to happen, probably if the campaigns continue to improve, the annual diagnostic numbers will increase because these people would be diagnosed now but have acquired the virus for some time, "he clarified.
That is why he stressed the need to test: "if we reduce the number of people who do not know, eventually the cases will decrease in the long term and we will cut the transmission chain," he said … but only if everyone knows their serological status
"The treatment takes a few months to reduce the viral load, but if it stays undetectable, that person does not pass the virus on to another person, the transmission is over," Cortes concluded.
If you have no information on this, if you are afraid, you do not know what to do or the situation in the country bothers you, the testimonies of the principle sent messages to complete this note:
Lucas: "HIV + is very invisible and the lack of information is worsening. In addition, sex education is needed."
J"I have collapsed with people with HIV who are self-hidden and make fear of discrimination not allow them to normalize the disease, which is a chronic disease like any other." Add to that the homosexual stigma, but more and more heterosexuals have it. "
Light"We could do better if we talked more about it, the drugs, the undetectable viral load, because we have not talked about it yet. I would like to emphasize that there are more conversations on the subject, about HIV today, in 2019, not as it was before, women can be mothers, opt for normal birth. "
Carlos"The Church has been involved all this time, saying no to condoms, that it is the right of parents to raise their children sexually because they know what is right." I feel that this must be a central government health plan. even if you say that a person has the right to choose whether or not to vaccinate their children: if you do not, it will open the window to diseases that have already disappeared. "
Iancu: "We have a generalized problem … The HIV crisis lies mainly in the lack of comprehensive sexual education, we do not know what is happening to our sexuality." Chile is a country that in the last 20 years did not want to speak on sex and, on other issues, the discussion was opened. "
Gaspar: "My message to someone who finds out recently is that he does not die. One can live quietly if you do the treatment properly every day and do medical check-ups." In fact, people live more calmly than with diseases like It is necessary to investigate the subject to know that there are three steps and to be in that is to go for the AIDS disease, so it is not come and say – or be told – that you have AIDS, if you can be in the other two previous stages of AIDS, very controlled without feeling sick, find support nearby, I hope your friends can take it as well as mine and it's up to each one to tell the family, in my case I think it's unnecessary to tell my parents why I'm not wrong and I'd rather not scare them, but they know Sisters, it's up to each one. And, of course, do not let the virus ruin you sociologically, because then your defenses will subside and that could be worse. "