Sexual health and prevention, care and assistance services in Italy

Arcigay, as part of the Healthy Peer project, carried out a mapping of prevention, care and assistance services in the field of sexual health in 31 Italian cities.

“The project revealed a problematic situation. Some specific services, e.g. in the area of PREP, are poorly institutionalised or completely absent”, said Ilenia Pennini, Head of Health at the national secretariat of Arcigay.

Despite the fact that in all the cities mapped, except Siena, there is at least one centre dedicated to HIV, with almost always free, anonymous, and direct access, it’s less likely a pre- and post-test counselling service is available, which is essential to help people understand what risk behaviour is, and to support them in the event of a positive diagnosis.

In all the cities surveyed there are health centres that take people in with HIV. However, in 11 out of 31 there is a lack of free screening services for sexually transmitted infections other than HIV.

According to data from the Ministry of Health, released on International AIDS Day 2021, there were almost five new HIV diagnoses per day in Italy, which, in many cases, were discovered too late, i.e. when symptoms of the disease had already appeared.

Despite this, PREP, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis to Prevent HIV (which consists of taking a combination of HIV-active drugs before sexual intercourse), is not accessible everywhere. Monitoring shows that 9 of the 31 cities do not have a PREP counter: this means that people are forced to travel to other cities to access it.

Florence, Latina, Lecce, Rome, Verona, Venice and Milan have more than one dedicated counter, but only Milan has activated the experiment of free administration.

“Promoting access to PREP free of charge or at a reduced price to many people is one of the tools that in other states is leading to a huge reduction in new HIV diagnoses; implementing this tool in every part of Italy would bring an enormous benefit in terms of public health”, confirmed Ilenia Pennini, Health Manager of the Arcigay National Secretariat.

Maria Cecilia Castellazzi, Trainee Lawyer

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