Thanks to therapies, I beat it.

Here is the testimony of a positive man: “I owe my life to medicine.”

At 48, he got a diagnosis with HIV Tests. “It was a hard blow. I experienced uncertainty and strong feelings of guilt.” You can’t detect the STD virus in his blood after two years of treatment at the Bolzano hospital. Therefore, it is no longer transmissible during sexual intercourse. “Therapies work, but prevention is also key, and it is good to have STD tests done regularly.”

BOLZANO. He lives with HIV, but thanks to therapies, you can’t detect the virus in his blood. Therefore, it is no longer transmissible during sexual intercourse. It is the story of Holger (not his real name), published on the Alto Adige Health Authority website on 1 December, World AIDS Day.

He was 48 years old when, unexpectedly, he got his diagnosis after an HIV blood test during a dermatological visit.

“It was a hard blow for me.”

“I had no idea where I got the STD infection. It must have happened after the relationship with my long-time partner ended. At the time, for some time, I didn’t have any stable relationships.”

His first reaction was uncertainty and strong feelings of guilt. He received care from the infectious disease specialist Giovanni Rimenti, who is in the infectious diseases department of the health company. He also got support from doctors and psychologists. Due to the social stigma that affects HIV-positive people, Holger did not reveal to anyone that he got the STD infection. He was avoiding the chance of penalisation at work. Holger was protecting himself from discrimination and marginalization. “But it wasn’t easy,” he says.

In the past, an HIV infection was almost a death sentence. However, effective therapies exist today, and people can continue living normally even if infected. Blood values ​​indicated that Holger had not contracted the virus for long. As soon as the CD4 immune cells fell below the limit of 200, he would have to start treatment and undergo regular STD tests. “I was afraid of therapy life,” he continues.

It was like a sword of Damocles hanging over my head.

I imagined it would be a sad existence. I would no longer be able to party or drink with friends.”

His current partner, whom he met six months after the diagnosis, has always remained by his side and supported him: “Of course, we have always used condoms during intercourse. He never got the STD Tested infection.” Holger’s partner underwent regular testing anonymously and free of charge at the Propositiv Südtiroler AIDS Hilfe association. 

Two years after the diagnosis, Holger’s immune system was so severely compromised that he had to begin treatment. He was taking medication that suppresses the reproduction of the virus so that AIDS does not appear. The man tolerated the tablets very well, and after about two weeks, it was confirmed that his body had adapted to the active ingredients. From then on, he was able to live without restrictions. 

Today, Holger takes the tablets every night before bed and always ensures he has a supply at home. About two years after starting treatment, you can no longer detect the virus in his blood. Therefore, it is no longer transmissible during sexual intercourse. Traces of the virus are still present in the leukocytes, but the suppression of HIV was successful. Since then, the situation has remained unchanged, and life expectancy is normal.

“I owe my life to medicine.”

Despite these promising therapies, HIV is still deadly. “All sexually active people, especially boys and girls who are not in a stable relationship, should always remember to use a condom – advises Holger. – Condoms protect against HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases. Furthermore, everyone should know their status. This is to protect yourself and others. This is why it is important to get regular STD profile Home Tests. The earlier the diagnosis, the greater the chance of being healthy again.” 

As part of the “Stop HIV!” awareness campaign, the South Tyrolean Health Authority Tour will stop in Bolzano and Laives tomorrow, 2 December. There will also be information on the virus and free rapid tests. Anyone can undergo the test anonymously and without appointments. The HIV test can also be carried out in all the health authorities’ blood sampling centres.

Sexually transmitted diseases: can we talk about it?

Early October: I go out with friends, including the hyena Niccolò Torielli (Sconvolt Quiz). Halfway through the evening, Niccolò becomes serious and tells me: “From October 11th, I will be the testimonial of an important project, the new Think Safe STD Testing campaign, linked to promoting sexual education. It will be an initiative aimed at young people to prevent the spread of STDs. It collaborates with Anlaids (National Association for the Fight Against AIDS) and will involve 5,500 schools for approximately 300,000 pupils”.

As I listen to the words of my teacher, Claudia Balotta, an infectious disease specialist at the Luigi Sacco Hospital in Milan, come to mind: “According to the WHO, sexually transmitted diseases involve 330 million individuals every year, and the alarming fact is that 111 million are adolescents (11-15 years old), despite large underestimates (in Italy it reaches 100-150%). In the world, the most common are trichomoniasis, gonorrhoea, and syphilis. HIV is the main disease, with 33 million infected people.

Various etiological agents are involved, and numerous problems are related to therapies, especially against viruses. The most widespread among adolescents are Herpes simplex 1 and 2 and the papillomavirus (vaccine available). Furthermore, even if they are not strictly on the list of STDs, we must not forget about the hepatitis B and C viruses. These viruses are often inoculated sexually.

Prevention is fundamental, but in Italy, it is weak.

In addition to using condoms (an indispensable measure), it is necessary to increase information. This is true especially among younger people, starting from their sexual debut, involving the media and schools.” In the meantime, Niccolò adds: “I support the commitment that this campaign will carry out with young people. It is a training course aimed at raising young people’s awareness of correct sexual behaviour with STD tests. It is the activities linked to the world of youth that can develop an ever-widening social conscience.” And I ask myself: why don’t I (ever) hear about this topic? Is it the fault of a topic that is still taboo?