In total the Algarve registers an average of 100 new cases of HIV every year in the region with the level of incidence only being higher in the areas of Lisbon and S>etúbal.
The case of HIV was registered in the Algarve in 1983 and the figures for the illness have shown that since then and until the end of September 2012 the number of cases in the region was 2159.
The regional coordinator for the HIV prevention programme of HIV/AIDS told Lusa that the real number of cases of people infected with HIV in the Algarve could actually be a third higher than shown in the statistics due to many cases never being registered.
The Algarve has approximately 400,000 inhabitants and the rate of infection stands at 478 per 100,000 which is considered to be a “reasonable” level by Dr Helena Ferreira.
Dr Ferreira said that most of the people infected in the Algarve are heterosexual and are aged between 20 and 49 years of age, dismissing the myth that the illness is one that is associated with homosexual males.
In total 69 percent of all the cases in the Algarve in 2011 came through heterosexual activity with only 19 percent through homosexual contact and 12 percent through intravenous transmission (particularly in drug users).
Dr Ferreira said: “The transmission of HIV through sexual contact is the most difficult to control because it covers the entire populatoins and although condom use is increasing it is still not enough”.
Recently there has been an increase in the number of new cases found in people between the ages of 50 and 64 years old highlighting the need to educate older members of the population as to the risks of HIV and AIDS.
Early detection of the virus is seen as imperative by Dr Ferreira who noted that during 2011 more than 25 percent of the people who came to hospitals already were showing signs of AIDS.
“A person may be infected for ten years but may remain asymptomatic, even without therapy. this is the most critical period of the virus because the person does not know that they are infected and could be transmitting the virus to others without their knowledge.”
To avoid spreading the disease doctors urge anyone who takes part in risky sexual behaviour or is a drug user, to come forward for testing at least once a year.
If HIV is detected early it can now be treated to stop it from ever developing into AIDS.
Anyone wanting an HIV test is advised to visit their doctor or local health clinic for further information.