1 in 7 with HIV in Europe un­aware of the in­fec­tion

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

One in seven peo­ple with HIV in Europe is un­aware of their in­fec­tion, the EU and World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion re­ported yes­ter­day as 2015 marked an­other record year for new HIV cases in the re­gion. “HIV/AIDS con­tin­ues to be a se­ri­ous prob­lem in Europe... The Euro­pean Cen­tre for Dis­ease Preven­tion and Con­trol’s (ECDC) es­ti­mate that one in seven peo­ple liv­ing with HIV are un­aware of their sta­tus is par­tic­u­larly wor­ry­ing,” EU Health Com­mis­sioner Vyte­nis An­driukaitis said in the re­port re­leased ahead of World AIDS Day on Thurs­day.

“Peo­ple who do not know they are in­fected can­not ben­e­fit from life-sav­ing treat­ment, and can con­tinue to trans­mit the virus to oth­ers,” he noted. The ECDC fig­ure is based on data from the 28 EU na­tions plus Ice­land, Liecht­en­stein and Nor­way. Al­most half of cases in those coun­tries - 47 per­cent-are di­ag­nosed at a late stage of in­fec­tion, the ECDC said, es­ti­mat­ing that on av­er­age it takes al­most four years be­fore an HIV in­fec­tion is di­ag­nosed and re­ported. Sex be­tween men re­mains the main re­ported HIV trans­mis­sion mode in those 31 coun­tries, ac­count­ing for 42 per­cent of di­ag­noses. Men who have sex with men is the only group that has seen a steady in­crease in in­fec­tions over the years, the re­port said. Het­ero­sex­ual sex ac­counts for 32 per­cent of di­ag­noses, fol­lowed by drug use at four per­cent.

High rates of in­fec­tion

Mean­while, Europe reg­is­tered its high­est num­ber of new HIV cases in a sin­gle year in 2015, at 153,407 cases, up from 142,000 in 2014, the WHO said. The 2014 fig­ures were also a record num­ber, driven by cases in Rus­sia and im­mi­grants who ac­quired the virus af­ter ar­rival. The WHO re­gional of­fice for Europe has a dif­fer­ent def­i­ni­tion of Europe and com­piles data from 53 coun­tries. Al­most 80 per­cent of the 2015 cases it tal­lied were re­ported in east­ern Europe, 18 per­cent in west­ern Europe and three per­cent in cen­tral Europe. Rus­sia, where HIV re­mains a largely taboo sub­ject, ac­counted for 64 per­cent of all newly di­ag­nosed in­fec­tions in the WHO’s Euro­pean re­gion, and 81 per­cent of cases in east­ern Europe.

There, het­ero­sex­ual sex is the main route of trans­mis­sion of the virus which is spread through con­tact with con­tam­i­nated body flu­ids. Other coun­tries with high rates of new in­fec­tions last year were Ukraine, Be­larus, Es­to­nia, Moldova, Latvia and Ge­or­gia. “De­spite sig­nif­i­cant ef­forts, HIV re­mains among the main pub­lic health concerns in the WHO Euro­pean re­gion, in par­tic­u­lar in its east­ern part,” the WHO re­gional di­rec­tor for Europe, Zsuzsanna Jakab, said. She urged mem­ber coun­tries to im­ple­ment a new ac­tion plan they en­dorsed in Septem­ber, in­clud­ing im­prov­ing ac­cess to HIV test­ing and preven­tion meth­ods, to re­verse the HIV epi­demic. —AFP

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