Less than half of Cyprus’ HIV-positive population has a good quality of life, as social stigma continues to shun many carriers and many struggle to find work.
The problems HIV-positive individuals face were discussed during Monday’s House human rights committee, ahead of World Aids Day, marked on December 1.
“Individuals adopt the anachronistic outdated perceptions of society as a given and individuals reject themselves as non-equal member of their society,” Dr Georgios Siakallis, director of the Gregoriou clinic which offers treatment to HIV-positive people and those with Aids, told MPs.
Consequently, individuals withdraw socially and from medical monitoring, he said.
Siakallis added that for the first time after a 10-year upward trend, 2023 is expected to end with an approximately 22 per cent reduction in new diagnoses.
He specified that despite Cyprus doing well at face value and on the right path to meet World Health Organisation targets, he raised concerns over the quality of life that many carriers are experiencing.
In a sample survey of 150 Cypriot HIV-positive individuals carried out with Thessaloniki’s national centre for technology research, the findings revealed only 48 per cent of have a good quality of life.
The parameters included mobility, mental health, autonomy, people’s beliefs about the disease itself and acceptance of their condition.
The reason 52 per cent of the people said they do not have a good quality of life is social stigma.
One of the examples cited during the parliamentary session, was a complaint filed over a doctor who refused to operate on an HIV-positive woman.
The WHO targets are dubbed ‘95-95-95’ aimed at ending the HIV epidemic by 2025. This means 95 per cent of people living with HIV should know their HIV status within the next two years.
A total of 95 per cent should have access to antiretroviral therapy and 95 per cent should have viral suppression.
According to Siakallis, Cyprus scores with 92 per cent in diagnoses, 94 per cent in access to treatment and viral suppression is at 97 per cent, exceeding the targets for the latter.
Director of Kyfa (HIV/Aids support centre) Stella Michaelidou also urged for one more doctor to staff the Gregoriou clinic.
There are currently 1,200 HIV-positive people who need care, but they are only being treated by one doctor, since the second doctor staffing the clinic is on maternity leave, she told MPs.
Michaelidou said despite meetings with the previous minister of health over the matter for three years, nothing has yet to be done.
State health services (Okypy) spokesman Charalambos Charilaou assured her that in 2024, the organisation will move forward with the recruitment of a third doctor of infectious diseases.
Michaelidou told deputies that HIV-positive individuals receive a €350 benefit and, in some cases, have to cover the cost of medication such as psychotropic drugs which are not included in Gesy and cost more than €100.
Coupled with the fact that many are cut-off from work, this does not allow them to live with dignity, urging for the allowance to increase to €450.