HIV Diagnoses in Israel Climb; New Cases Among Gays Up Sharply

Number of HIV positive people in Israel was about 5,300 in 2007, up 50 percent since 2004.

The number of HIV-positive people in Israel increased substantially in 2007, a turnaround from a drop in new diagnoses the previous year.

Health Ministry figures indicate a sharp rise in HIV cases in the gay community.

The International Federation of the Red Cross/Red Crescent yesterday published its annual disasters report, classifying AIDS as a severe disaster in Africa and urging that it be classified along with famine, war and floods.

The IFRC report warns that the AIDS crisis could become a global disaster. It says 7,000 people are infected with HIV daily around the world and that 33 million people have the virus, which has killed 25 million worldwide.

About two-thirds of people with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa. At least one person in 10 is HIV positive in countries such as South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zambia, the report said.

Data from the Israel AIDS Taskforce indicates that at the end of 2007 the number of HIV positive people in Israel was about 5,300, according to Health Ministry data. The non-profit organization believes that there is an equal number of undiagnosed cases. It says that most new infections in Israel appear to result from HIV positive people who are unaware they are infected and are not receiving treatment.

The Taskforce also says the number of HIV cases in Israel has increased about 50 percent since 2004 and that the state's NIS 40,000 annual budget for education and prevention of AIDS is insufficient. It says most public-awareness efforts are handled by the Taskforce itself.

Health Ministry officials yesterday rejected the claims, saying that the Taskforce refuses to cooperate "for non-germane reasons," and that the ministry allocates substantial funds for the war on AIDS.

The Taskforce held its annual carriers conference yesterday, with about 100 attendees who heard updates on new drug treatments that improve quality of life for those living with the disease.

The Taskforce said that since the introduction of drug-cocktail treatment in 1996, HIV has become a chronic disease in Israel - as in the Western world as a whole - and patients treated with the cocktail have a life expectancy similar to that of people who do not have the virus.