Over the past four years the rate of HIV infection within the gay community in Israel has more than doubled. A third of all new HIV positive diagnoses in 2007 were homosexuals. The figures were revealed on Monday in a report issued by the Health Ministry on the occasion of the annual World AIDS Day.
There were 360 new cases of HIV in the general population in 2007 compared with an average of 333 cases over the past four years.
However, with the given population increase, this rate is considered stable.
As of late 2007 there were 4,239 people in Israel registered as HIV positive, however the real figure is believed to stand at close to 6,000.
The primary HIV-positive groups are homosexuals, drug users and immigrants from southern African nations, where the virus is extremely prevalent.
Amongst Israelis from Ethiopian descent there are 1,841 diagnosed as HIV positive, in the gay community the number stands at 708 and amongst drug users who inject there are 608 cases.
Less new cases amongst Ethiopians
But while the rate of infection amongst Ethiopians and drug users has steadily declined over the past several years, there has been a worrying increase amongst gays.
In 2007 there were 116 new cases in the gay community. In 2006 the number for this group stood at 75, and in 2003 it was less than 50.
"There is an increase in the absolute number of carriers in the homosexual community," says Dr. Daniel Shemtov, director of the Health Ministry's AIDS and Tuberculosis department.
"The community must deal with this issue. The data shows that there is awareness regarding how AIDS is transferred, it is vital that a person take responsibility for his own protection and the protection of others," said Dr. Shemtov.
He said most of the new cases were occurring amongst men in their 30s and 40s. "With youths we've seen the infection rate stabilize, but we have seen an increase in infections amongst men over 30 years of
age and even those in their forties.
The Health Ministry is set to launch a new campaign in cooperation with 'The Aguda' – Israel's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Association. The campaign will focus on internet dating sites aimed at the gay community under the banner of – 'A condom, because your life is worth more than a fuck.'
Shemtov estimates the ministry invests four and a half million shekels in AIDS awareness efforts. As part of World AIDS Day this year it will also launch a television campaign to encourage the use of condoms. It will be aimed at the general public.