The rate of HIV infections in Chile is soaring, with at least 7,000 new cases diagnosed so far this year compared to only 5,800 cases throughout 2017, bringing the total number of people affected to 100,000.
The Ministry of Health is launching multi-million-dollar education programs in schools nationwide to stop the spread of the virus and tackle the stigma that causes discrimination against those infected.
Communication strategies paired with surveillance programs, the distribution of both male and female protection, over 11,000 clinic exams, and prophylaxis drugs are among methods being deployed.
"The increase of HIV in the last seven years is 96 percent; in 2017, only 5,800 new cases were registered," said Health Minister Emilio Santelices, noting that more than 31,500 Chileans are currently receiving treatment.
At least 56 patients were oblivious to the symptoms, were misdiagnosed, or were unable to receive treatment in time and consequently acted as a carrier for the virus.
Generally, HIV/Aids test results are returned to patients within 60 days and physicians are obliged to alert both the ministry and the patient to guarantee the necessary treatments are provided.
However, Chilean health facilities such as the Carlos van Buren Hospital in Valparaíso (seven cases), the Rural Post of Calingasta de Coquimbo (six cases) and the Gustavo Fricke Hospital in Viña del Mar (four cases) failed to adhere to normal procedures.
The Health Ministry is also investigating the option of introducing medication to help reduce viral infections. Used in Brazil, Peru, Africa, Australia and the United States, the PReP pill (pre-exposure prophylaxis) has proven successful in reducing the transmission of sexual infections by over 90 percent.
Alejandro Afani, an immunologist and the director of the HIV Center of the Clinical Hospital of the University of Chile, said: "There is sufficient scientific evidence worldwide that endorses the use of drugs for the reduction in serious proportions... These drugs are not what they appear to be; they are medicines that are part of the triple therapy that patients take."
The National HIV/AIDS Prevention Plan aims to educate the younger demographic: research shows a sharp increase in HIV in couples aged between 20 and 29.