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Text Giuseppe Fantasia

At what point is HIV research in Italy? Scientists have been trying to give answers to this question, and progress has certainly been compared to the past. Twenty years ago you had to take twenty-eight tablets a day, today a couple of them are enough to keep the disease under control and make the virus less aggressive. However, Italy – Anlaids data – like Greece, is in the thirteenth place in terms of the incidence of new HIV diagnoses. A slight decrease from 2012 to 2016. Science does not stop its efforts and continues to look for a vaccine to prevent transmission of the virus and innovative therapies to eradicate HIV.

A late diagnosis greatly reduces the effectiveness of the therapy, increasing drug resistance. However, if the infection is discovered in time, with an adequate therapy it becomes chronic and allows life prospects similar to those of HIV-negatives. Prevention and information are fundamental, but on closer inspection, between people with a new diagnosis of infection, 30.7% of them had tested for the presence of HIV-related symptoms, 27.5% of them due to risky behaviour and only 12.2% following routine checks.

It is mainly young people who do not inform themselves and do not consider the dangers they can run if they have unprotected sex. The alarm was launched following the boom in contagion recorded in Lazio, the region that has the record for new cases – about six hundred in the last year (following Marche, Tuscany, Lombardy, Piedmont) – but especially after the discovery that the most endangered segment is precisely that of young people between the ages of 25 and 29.

“Every year, since ten years, in Italy there have been about four thousand new diagnoses of HIV infection and about six thousand people do not know that they are HIV-positives”, Dr. Enrico Girardi, director of the Department of Epidemiology and Preclinical Research of the ICRS Spallanzani in Rome, explains. Numbers that should make us reflect, as also Nadia Galliano recalls, a doctor specialising in psychiatry, in her new book, Seguimi con gli occhi (Bookabook editor), a novel that starts from real stories and faces this theme by addressing young people. The empathic listening, the relationship, the emotion and sharing are key elements to make a breach on a broad and unconscious public.

The Anlaids Lazio Onlus, since 1988, year of its foundation, has been promoting projects to raise awareness about the social issues related to HIV infection, in addition to assisting and protecting HIV-positive people and their families. Among the activities that take place are the meetings in schools between students, doctors and researchers, telephone and vis-à-vis consultations, activities such as The Safe City – an interactive game on the Internet to learn about the disease – or active participation on the Apps (Grindr and Planet Romeo in the lead) with the creation of an official profile of the Anlaids called, certainly not by chance, “Joe Condom”. There is no shortage of charitable associations aimed at raising funds. In Milan, a few nights ago there was “Convivio”, the most important Italian charity market exhibition created in 1992 by Versace, Armani and Ferré, which has reached its fourteenth edition this year.

Rome responds with “Arte&Aids”, an initiative that involves numerous personalities from the entertainment, fashion, culture, art and sport fields, invited to create a work to be transformed into a fundraising tool. From Alessandro Preziosi to Patty Pravo, from Paolo Sorrentino to Ferzan Ozpetek, many public figures will meet on June 14th in the rooms of the seventeenth-century palace of Doria Pamphilj for the Charity Gala, which this year will be curated by the designer Matteo Corvino. It is also thanks to these events (think also of AMFAR all over the world, which recently organised a large fundraising at the last Cannes Film Festival) that the HIV virus is less scary. Spreading the culture of prevention on issues related to HIV and sensitising the test to promote early diagnosis is essential. It is also to intensify – in the case of positivity – secondary and tertiary prevention.