More than a million Europeans today live with the AIDS virus. The epidemic is progressing at an alarming rate and the authorities are starting to worry.
In 2016, more than 57,000 new HIV cases were detected in Europe, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). No less than 1,115,000 European patients currently suffer from the virus, excluding Russia. The average is 7.7 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
The epidemic continues to grow, especially in Eastern Europe where 80% of new HIV cases have been detected.
Transmission of the virus increases in heterosexual people in the eastern part while transmission of the virus increases in men who have sex with men in Western Europe. Injection of drugs has caused one-third of new infections in Eastern European countries.
“On average, it takes three years between the moment a person is infected and when the diagnosis is made, which is much too long,” argues Dr. Andrea Ammon, Director of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control ( ECDC). In Eastern Europe, 1 in 3 infected people do not know their HIV status, compared to 1 in 7 in the rest of Europe.
The reasons for this epidemic are many. The lack of prevention and resources invested in an effective health policy against the disease echoes the relative silence of governments on the spread of HIV. Indeed, stigmatization is strong and the transmission by syringes of drug addicts, one of the main causes of the spread, remains a taboo.
In Ukraine, the war severely disrupted the country’s health system, leading to the exodus of doctors, and decreasing access to contraceptives and antivirals for the sick. Early treatment is necessary to limit the risk for infected individuals to progress to the stage of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). However, individuals who have reached this stage have almost doubled in Eastern Europe in the last ten years.
Dr. Andrea Ammon advocates for greater reactivity against HIV. As more than 29 000 new HIV infections are reported each year in the EU, the ECDC recommends that Member States focus their public health policy for HIV on three main areas: prevention by the sensitizing and promoting safer sex, providing effective HIV counseling and testing services, and ensuring that those diagnosed have early access to quality treatment.