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Epidemiology for public health - ISS

First mentioned in the literature in 1981, the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (also known as AIDS) is the terminal stage of infection with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). HIV is a RNA virus belonging to the retrovirus family.


After exposure to HIV, a person may become HIV-seropositive. This means that they are infected and could pass the virus on to other people. Three transmission routes have been identified: blood, sexual and mother-to-child transmission.


A specific test (performed by taking a blood sample) is needed to determine whether or not a person is infected with HIV. Under Italian legislation (Law n. 135 of June 1990), the HIV test may be carried out only with the consent of the individual concerned. The test is not mandatory, but people who have adopted risk behaviours should consider being tested. In most healthcare settings, the procedure is free and anonymous, and no medical referral is required. By law, test results must be communicated only to the individual concerned. Foreign nationals, with or without a residence permit, are allowed to be tested under the same conditions as Italian citizens.


Since 1984, the AIDS Operations Centre (Centro Operativo AIDS - COA) of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità has been collecting data on reported AIDS cases and, since 2008, data on newly-diagnosed HIV infections, which first became available for all Regions in 2012. 


Publication date: 29 March 2021