HIV in Sweden today is not like it was yesterday

The number of people in Sweden with HIV increases every year, but many misconceptions remain about the disease and how it affects people’s lives.

HIV in Sweden today is not like it was yesterday
Photo: Public Health Agency of Sweden

The treatment of HIV is now so effective that it can reduce virus levels to practically zero and minimise the risk of transmission.

A growing number of people in Sweden now live with HIV, yet ignorance about what this means can lead to discrimination. This is why we need to increase public awareness.

At you can find out more about what life is like for people with HIV today. HIV is no longer a fatal disease but a chronic, treatable infection where an early intervention allows a long life expectancy for people living with HIV in Sweden today.

“I view HIV as any other chronic illness like diabetes or high blood pressure,” says Anna-Mia Ekström, a specialist in infectious diseases and HIV researcher at Karolinska Institutet, in the promotional film for the campaign (see below).

“You can live a perfectly full and healthy life.”

HIV infection, or HIV as the disease is normally known, is caused by a virus. HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

Click here to learn more at

In the beginning, you will not necessarily perceive any problems if you have contracted HIV. The disease is especially infectious during the first months after infection. Symptoms can be similar to those of influenza and normally disappear after a week or so. However, the infection continues, undetected, to weaken the body’s immune system.

Sweden’s Public Health Agency is the national coordinator of HIV prevention, a task that also includes reducing the stigma and discrimination associated with the infection.

“You can’t tell from looking at someone if they have HIV,” Ekström explains.

“You don’t have to lead any particular lifestyle, you don’t have to be promiscuous or a drug user.”

There is no vaccine or cure for HIV. There is however effective medicine today that stops the progression of the disease and prevents the destruction of your immune system if administered in time, thus also preventing the development of AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).

“AIDS is not a chronic condition that you always have – you recover from it, and then go on to live your life with you chronic HIV infection,” says Ekström.

“Most people who get HIV today and get effective treatment never get AIDS.”

As the treatment does not cure the disease, it must continue throughout the person’s life.

“As the number of people in Sweden with HIV is steadily increasing by four to five-hundred people per year, people who are HIV positive will become more common,” she adds.

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A test is the only way to find out if you have HIV or not. The earlier an HIV infection is detected, the earlier treatment can start and damage to the immune system minimised.

“HIV tests should be available at healthcare centre and youth clinics and it must be possible to take one anonymously,” says Ekström.

An ongoing asylum process is not affected if you should be diagnosed with HIV when you are tested.

You can find your nearest clinic on or ring 1177 and choose # 5.

For more information about the information campaign HIV Today, please contact the Public Health Agency of Sweden (Folkhälsomyndigheten) at [email protected]

This article is sponsored by


Spanish scientists make breakthrough identifying HIV resistance gene

A rare genetic mutation that causes a form of muscular dystrophy affecting the limbs also protects against HIV infection, Spanish scientists reported Thursday.

Spanish scientists make breakthrough identifying HIV resistance gene
Photo: peshkova/Depositphotos

The breakthrough comes a decade after American Timothy Brown, known as the “Berlin Patient,” became the first person cured of HIV after a bone marrow transplant from a donor with a mutation of the CCR5 gene.

The newly-discovered mutation concerns the Transportin 3 gene (TNPO3) and is far more rare. 

It was identified several years ago among members of a family in Spain who were suffering from type 1F limb-girdle muscular dystrophy.   

Doctors studying the family learned that HIV researchers were interested in the same gene because it plays a role in transporting the virus inside cells.   

Role of TNPO3 in HIV infection (credit: Rodríguez-Mora S, et al., 2019).

They then got in touch with geneticists in Madrid, who took blood samples from those family members and infected the blood with HIV — revealing a welcome surprise.   

The lymphocytes — white blood cells that are an important part of the immune system — of people with the rare muscular illness were naturally resistant to HIV, it emerged.

“This helps us to understand much better the transport of the virus in the cell,” Jose Alcami, a virologist at the Carlos III Health Institute and co-author of a paper published in US journal PLOS Pathogens on the subject, told AFP.   

HIV is among the most studied viruses, he said, adding however that much remained to be learned, such as why five percent of patients who are infected do not develop AIDS.

“There are mechanisms of resistance to infection that are very poorly understood,” he said.

READ MORE: Spanish team develop biosensor to detect HIV within a week of infection