This human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is characterized by damaging the cells of the immune system and in the more advanced stages of infection, is the cause of the development of AIDS. It is typically transmitted by unprotected sex or the sharing of syringes.
HIV was first identified between 1981 and 1986, a period in which it was possible to isolate, develop a screening test and obtain the first drug to treat it; AZT.
Until 1996, the disease spread rapidly and reached a mortality rate of 95% of those infected. That year, the discovery of antiretroviral treatment redefined AIDS as a chronic and non-fatal disease. In that case, it is important to remember that, to date, HIV infection is uncured but controllable. The current treatments prevent replication of the virus and are only effective if taken as directed. Currently, when a person with HIV pursues treatment, it reduces the amount of virus in sexual fluids, reaching the undetectable level of the virus in them and prevents its transmission to other people.
According to the World Health Organization, around 34 million people worldwide lived with HIV at the end of 2011. The most affected area is sub-Saharan Africa, where one in twenty adults is infected with the virus. 68% of the world’s HIV-positive population is located in this region.
In Spain, about 3,000 people are infected each year, and an estimated 150,000 people live with the virus. There are about 35,000 HIV-positive people living in Catalonia, 25% of whom are unware of their infection.