SANTIAGO – Chile is currently facing a growing health epidemic. There’s been an explosion in new HIV cases. According to the latest United Nations Aids study, about 70,000 Chileans are living with the virus. That puts Chile among the top 10 countries in the world that has seen the highest increase in new HIV cases.
“It has been tough, because even with the support of my family, the society rejects me.”
Joshua Pinto is living with HIV and he told me that his experience has been anything but easy.
“Have you ever been discriminated against?”
Joshua Pinto: “Yes. Unfortunately, it’s always been related to misinformation. They don’t understand the topic.”
Joshua went on to tell me that we have to continue having conversations and educating people in order to end the taboo that surrounds the topic of HIV here in Chile.
Luis Vargas: “Here in Chile, people prefer to not talk about HIV because if you don’t talk about it that means it doesn’t exist.”
But there is one organization called CERES that is talking about HIV, tackling the subject head on. They held a seminar on Thursday.
This event takes place every year to talk about awareness and prevention and as you can see, there’s a lot of young people who decided to come out today and the reason why is because this year’s focus is about how HIV has affected the youth living here in Chile.
Camilo Garcia: “Well, now, HIV policy is mostly made among very old people; they are specialists, they are epidemiologists and they don’t really listen or ask young people how they feel about HIV, the campaigns, or what type of campaigns they think are going to be most effective.”
Francisca Mellado decided to come to this event because the topic of HIV hits close to home for her. She told me, she used to have a friend who was living with virus.
Francisca Mellado: “We worked a lot together and he would always get tired and sick and then he found out that he was getting weak because he had HIV.”
Though the Chilean government hands out 17 million condoms a year, there are many people who believe the government still isn’t doing enough.
Camilo Garcia: “In Chile we’ve had many years of opposition to sexual education.”
Sex education only became mandatory in 2010 and that’s just for high schools… Now, policy makers are trying to figure out how they can lower the rate of HIV infections.
Anthony Hill is a multimedia journalist for Chile Today. He was born in the Bronx, New York and is currently living in Santiago, Chile. He double majored in journalism and political science at the State University of New York at Oswego. Before coming to Chile Today, he was a reporter for the NBC station in western Massachusetts.