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New HIV cases reach ‘alarming levels’ in Eastern Europe

New HIV cases reach ‘alarming levels’ in Eastern Europe

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Eastern Europe has recorded its highest number of new HIV diagnoses, with experts describing the increase as ‘alarming’.

Medical staff diagnosed 160,000 people with HIV across the European Union and European Economic Area (EU/EEA) countries. 130,000 of those cases came from eastern Europe.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the WHO Regional Office for Europe released the latest HIV data. Some of the latest data revealed some good news.

There was an overall numbers of new HIV cases have dropped in EU and EEA countries. That drop is attributed to a 20% decrease of HIV diagnoses since 2015 among men who have sex with men.

‘It’s hard to talk about good news in the face of another year of unacceptably high numbers of people infected with HIV,’ said Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe.

‘While efforts to prevent new HIV infections are gradually showing signs of progress, we are not on course to meet the 90–90–90 targets by the 2020 deadline’.

Jakab called on lawmakers to fast track action on HIV responses.

‘This means investing wisely in prevention, testing and treatment particularly in key populations to end the AIDS epidemic as we promised,’ she said.

Men who have sex with men

Men who have have men was the only population in EU/EEA that reported constant increases in HIV cases over the past decade. But that is likely due to targeted programs encouraging men to test regularly.

‘This allows rapid linkage to care and immediate start of antiretroviral treatment for those tested positive and wider uptake of evidence-based prevention such as pre-exposure prophylaxis,’  said ECDC Director Andrea Ammon.

‘This decline also shows that a stronger focus on addressing and including vulnerable populations in the HIV response, as outlined in new ECDC testing guidance, makes a difference.’

Key findings

Even though the rate of new HIV cases has grown in the region, the pace of that has slowed. For example, the eastern part of the region observed a rate of increase of 68% in 2008–2017. That’s compared with 95% in 2007–2016.

One reason for the persistent HIV epidemic in Europe is many people are diagnosed ‘late’. Every second person diagnosed with HIV has already reached an advanced stage in the infection.

Men are suffering disproportionately from HIV across the entire region, accounting for 70% of new HIV diagnoses.

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