New Cases of HIV in Israel Hit Record High in 2012

Number of new HIV carriers in gay community remains stable after big rises in previous years, while among heterosexuals situation reverses.

The number of new HIV carriers in Israel rose 8 percent last year to a record 499, the Health Ministry says.

According to a report by the ministry's National HIV Reference Laboratory, last year 495 adults and four children were identified as new carriers of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Most carriers identified in 2012 were between 31 and 40; the oldest was 92.

In 2012, women made up 26 percent of new carriers, compared with 30 percent in recent years.

The number of new HIV carriers in the gay community remained stable after big rises in previous years. A total of 150 men who have sex with men were diagnosed as new carriers, compared with 163 in 2011.

Among heterosexuals, the situation was reversed. There were 62 new carriers in 2012, compared with 39 in 2011. Those two numbers were identical for intravenous drug users.

Among African migrants who are not permanent residents of Israel, there were 145 new carriers in 2012, compared with 137 in 2011 - an increase of more than 5 percent. According to the report, the number of HIV carriers among African migrants is probably much higher because of underreporting due to a lack of medical insurance and Israeli residency permits.

A total of 60 Israelis who came to Israel from countries where AIDS is defined as an epidemic, mainly from Africa, were identified as new carriers in 2012. This is a 33 percent decline from 2011.

The four children identified as carriers are boys. One is a baby born in Israel to a mother who was a known carrier; the baby was born with HIV even though the mother had received preventive treatment during her pregnancy. Two other children were born in Ethiopia, and another baby was identified by testing in the Palestinian Authority and died at 6 months old.

One-tenth of those identified as HIV carriers in 2012 were infected with a strain resistant to most government-funded medications for treating HIV infection and AIDS, particularly the family of drugs known as NNRTI.

According to the report, one carrier was documented in 2012 as having been infected by a blood transfusion, but not in Israel. But the findings could halt an initiative by Health Minister Yael German to allow blood donations from gay men because in 2012 three carriers - not the usual one or two - were identified during routine testing of donations to Magen David Adom's blood bank.

According to the report, initial HIV tests are improving; the number of false positives has declined. In 2012, among tests sent to the National HIV Reference Laboratory for further testing after an initial positive, 70 percent of patients were determined to be carriers, versus only 55 percent in 2011.

"No segment of the population is immune from infection with the virus," the Israel AIDS Task Force said. "But as in other Western countries, some populations are at greater risk. Unfortunately, the government in Israel has not developed an effective prevention policy for these groups. Until that happens, we cannot expect a change in this worrisome trend."

AP