Tests for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are available free of charge through the Unified Health System (SUS) throughout the year in Fortaleza. The exam can be carried out at the health authority of the user’s region of residence or at the Consulting and Consulting Center (CTA).
In 2022, the capital of Ceará received 75,100 tests for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from the Ministry of Health (SM). In addition to HIV testing, the Municipality of Fortaleza (PMF) provides tests for syphilis, hepatitis B and C.
“To have access to the exams, the user must search for the health post of the region itself. If you don’t want to do it in that place, you can look for the Testing and Counseling Center located at Rua Jacinto de Matos, 944, Jacarecanga”, informs Marcos Paiva, consultant of the Technical Area of sexually transmitted infections (sexually transmitted diseases) / AIDS in Fortaleza .
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In addition, the Municipal Health Secretariat (SMS) has a channel for answering questions on the subject on an Instagram account, @prevencaofortaleza.
“If the person sends a question via message to the Prevention Fortaleza profile, there will be a professional ready to answer user questions. In addition to doubts, action is taken to calm the cases of people with positive tests. We have units that provide services to promote the immediate treatment of infected people,” Paiva points out.
Marcos also points out that Fortaleza has experienced an increase in the demand for tests over the years: “In 2019, MS sent 18,819 tests to the city’s health system. In 2020, we received 31,172 tests. we have 75,100. This is a sign that people are looking to get tested.
Users report difficulty accessing tests
For the first time trying to get tested in a health center, a 22-year-old man, who prefers not to be identified, said he was having difficulty taking the test at Dr. Luís Costa, in the Benfica neighborhood.
“Although the professional who assisted me was very helpful, the journey to reach her was quite stressful. I had to consult with at least three other professionals on site. I kept knocking from door to door at the mail until someone could explain to me what procedure I could follow.”
According to him, despite having managed to take the test at the station in the Benfica district, there is a lack of campaigns on the subject. “I’ve seen more debate about this in the past, especially during Carnival,” he concluded.
Another 21-year-old resident of Fortaleza, who also prefers not to be identified, said he tried to contact the Miriam Porto Mota Health Center, in Dionísio Torres, by telephone.
“As I didn’t get any response, I went to the spot. I went to the reception, spoke to the attendant, and she asked me if I had registration or if I was from the neighborhood, otherwise it would not have been possible to get tested on the ward. Since I don’t live in that neighborhood, I couldn’t take the test, even after trying to insist that there was no way to go to the one in my neighborhood because I work all day, and the post office closes at 5pm.
When questioned, Marcos Paiva, consultant to the Technical Area for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)/AIDS in Fortaleza, said he was aware of the complaints from users of the units and was articulating alternatives with regional coordinators.
“It is important that the person looks for the health center near the residence. What the management is doing to speed up the processes is that other professionals can carry out the tests and disclose the necessary information on the infections ”, adds the councilor.
In addition to nurses, dentists, family medicine residents, medical and nursing students, with appropriate supervision, will be able to perform the tests in the future, expanding their ability to perform them. The deadline for this adaptation has not been communicated.
HIV cases in Fortaleza
The number of HIV cases reported in Fortaleza, from January 2018 to December 2022, was 4,042 cases. Of this amount, 499 diagnoses were made in pregnant women. A total of 3,272 (81%) were detected in males and 770 (19%) in females. The data comes from the transparency portal of the Secretary of Health of Ceará (Sesa), IntegraSUS.
Regarding the age group, the highest number of cases was recorded in people aged between 20 and 29 (1,688). This value is followed by the group of people aged between 30 and 39 (1,103); 40-49 years (603), over-50s (414) and adolescents aged 13-19 (215). Within this amount, 19 cases were of no informed age.
In total, according to the municipality of Fortaleza, the capital of Ceará passionately has eight thousand people diagnosed with HIV followed by municipal services.
Testing and Consulting Center
Through HIV/AIDS Outpatient Services (SAE), Fortaleza residents can access services related to sexually transmitted infections. The person wishing to take the test at the Testing and Counseling Center located at Rua Jacinto de Matos, 944, can search for the unit during the following times: Monday to Friday, 8:00 to 11:00 and 13:00 at 4:00 pm .
Marcos Paiva, consultant to the Technical Area for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)/AIDS in Fortaleza, reiterates that, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, everyone is vulnerable to STI contamination.
“The problem is that the population of transsexuals and transvestites, gays and men who have sex with men (HTH), from a social and discriminatory point of view, is extremely vulnerable. It ends up being more difficult for these people to guarantee the rights validated in a health unit ”, she evaluates.
According to him, the professionals who make up the health unit are sensitized to better serve this population. “We have cases of trans and transvestites who no longer even seek basic health services, because when they get there they don’t even have respect for the social name. That’s why we went to the base units to discuss stigma and prejudice in these places,” he concludes.
In relation to any symptoms of sexual diseases, the user should go to the health center closest to home. If the user is not comfortable in a health facility in the same region, he can contact the specialized assistance service (check the addresses in the link).
Project “The time is now”
Since November last year, the people of Fortaleza have had one more chance to access HIV diagnosis and AIDS prevention. The “The time is now” project focuses on the population most vulnerable to contagion and with less access to the health network. The purpose of the action is to deliver self-tests by mail or to collect them from a digital locker at the Benfica metro station.
Regarding the locker installed in the subway station, the SMS representative said that the access has not yet been released. “The Ministry is still struggling to pass the oral fluid tests. If we release the toilet now, we will have problems, because we have no way to replace it. The MS has promised, throughout this week, to pass the promised tests. For now, we are working with the blood test”.
Vaccines and treatments
The aforementioned infections have their own particularities, vaccines or cures. The primary way to prevent hepatitis B virus infection is the vaccine, available at SUS for all unvaccinated people, regardless of age. Even if contaminated, hepatitis B is curable in most cases.
As for hepatitis C, it is one of the few chronic diseases that can be cured. When this is not possible, treatment tries to contain the progression of the disease and avoid complications.
As for syphilis, the treatment of the infection occurs through benzathine penicillin (benzatacil), which can be applied in the primary health unit. “Syphilis is present throughout the country and, despite having a 100% cure rate, it is still a serious disease, as people have avoided seeking services to be tested,” the technical consultant points out.
As for HIV, treatment is based on the administration of antiretroviral drugs to patients. Having a positive result does not mean imminent death.. If the patient undergoes adequate treatment, in six months he will already have an undetectable viral load.
“By maintaining this undetectable viral load for another six months, we say this person does not transmit HIV sexually. Undetectable equals uncommunicable. People are afraid and prejudiced, so we need to debunk these myths,” he concludes.
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