Georgia’s 6% jump in HIV/AIDS cases blamed on migrant influx

Georgia’s 6% jump in HIV/AIDS cases blamed on migrant influx
A surge in the number of HIV/AIDS cases reported in Georgia is believed to be connected to the significant influx of refugees from both Russia and Ukraine. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews August 16, 2023

A 6% increase in reported HIV/AIDS cases in Georgia during the first half of 2023 y/y is believed to be due to the significant influx of migrants fleeing both Russia and the war in Ukraine, health authorities in Tbilisi have warned.

Tengiz Tsertsvadze, the director of Tbilisi Infectious Diseases Hospital, told Jam News the authorities are urging the population, particularly the youth, to strictly adhere to safe  sex guidelines to protect themselves from HIV infection after the number of infections surged in the last year.

Tsertsvadze believes that the increase of case is connected to both the inflow of migrants from its neighbouring countries as well as the retreat of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to more social interactions in society after two years of lockdown. Increased testing frequency by the authorities may have also contributed to the uptick.

Concerns about increased infections rates are being discussed on social media, where some point to the migrants from Russia and Ukraine, which have higher HIV/AIDS prevalence rates.

Georgia has advanced treatment and care facilities for individuals with HIV/AIDS. Over 86% of those infected are on stable antiretroviral therapy, and more than 92% have achieved viral suppression. This not only ensures their life expectancy but also makes them non-transmitters of the virus, Jam News reports. Tsertsvadze stated that even those living with HIV/AIDS in Georgia can look forward to social integration, form families, and have healthy children.

The conflict in Ukraine and the increase in migration from Russia and Ukraine have prompted heightened surveillance of HIV infection spread by the authorities. The AIDS surveillance service is closely monitoring the delivery of preventive, therapeutic, and care services to migrants to ensure a healthy environment.

Tsertsvadze said that in the past 18 months, 214 foreign nationals, including Russians and Ukrainians, have received treatment in collaboration with a Global HIV/AIDS Fund, which provides complimentary antiretroviral medications. Additionally, 20 Ukrainian citizens receive cost-free medical services related to their condition.

Georgia has set an ambitious goal to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030 and aims to reduce new infections to zero. Tsertsvadze expressed his commitment to ensuring that the surge in migration does not impede the achievement of this objective.