Anti-HIV measures failing in EU, says WHO
By Joseph Boyle
The rate of new HIV infections across the EU has remained largely unchanged for a decade despite tens of millions spent every year on prevention campaigns, the latest data shows.
Some 29,747 people were diagnosed with HIV in 2015 in the 28 EU states plus Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway, according to a report from the World Health Organisation and the EU's European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
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The figure represents 6.3 new cases in 100,000 people, compared with 6.6 new cases a decade ago.
“Despite continuing prevention efforts and resources allocated by countries in the EU/EEA, there has been only a minimal decline in the number of HIV diagnoses per 100,000 population over the last decade,” the report said.
More testing needed
The ECDC warned that the real figure of those living with the infection was likely to be much higher.
“ECDC estimates that currently around 122,000 people in the EU/EEA are infected with HIV but are not aware of their infection – that is every one in seven people living with HIV in the region,” said ECDC acting director Andrea Ammon.
A decade ago, the rate was estimated at one in three people being unaware of their condition.
Despite that apparent improvement, the ECDC said it was pushing for wider testing across the bloc.
Health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said the number of people unaware of their condition was worrying.
“People who do not know they are infected cannot benefit from life-saving treatment, and can continue to transmit the virus to others,” he said. “This is why easy and accessible testing is so important.”
Two million people with HIV
The report said sex between men continued to be the most common method of passing the infection in the EU/EEA, accounting for 42.2 percent of cases. Heterosexual sex (32 percent) was the other major cause.
The report flagged Estonia as having the highest rate of new infections in the EU – 270 cases in 2015, representing 20.6 cases per 100,000 people. Latvia and Malta were next on the list.
In the wider WHO European region, which includes 53 countries, there are now more than two million people who have been diagnosed with HIV, the first time that figure has been breached, according to the UN agency.
The WHO said more than 153,000 people in the WHO European Region were newly diagnosed with HIV in 2015, more than in any other single year. Russia accounted for 64 percent of all new infections, more than half of which were reported to be the result of injecting drug use.