HIV Infection Rate on the Increase in Eastern Europe, Says Report

There were 160,000 confirmed cases of HIV infection in Europe last year, and 130,000 of these were from Eastern Europe.  More cases were reported from Ukraine and the Russian Federation among the countries in the East. In western Europe, on the other hand, infections declined by 20 percent. The data was made available in the report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) on Wednesday. The report covers data from 53 countries, 31 of which are in the European Union. If the trend continues unchanged, Europe will find it difficult to achieve the target set by the UN to eliminate HIV/AIDS by 2030.

Around 37 million people all over the world are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS. More than 77 million contracted the virus since the 1980s, and about half of them died of it. Zsuzsanna Jakab of WHO Europe said that even though the efforts to prevent new infections are showing progress, the region is not on course to meet the 90-90-90 targets by 2020. The targets are to diagnose 90 percent of all HIV infected people, to offer antiretroviral therapy to 90 percent of the infected and attain viral suppression for the 90 percent under treatment. She asked governments, ministers of health and decision makers to scale up their responses.

There was a warning from UNAIDS, the UN’s AIDS prevention agency, that complacency was beginning to affect the war against the epidemic, and the progress made so far doesn’t match with what is required. The 90-90-90- target will not be met until the percentage of new infections fell by 78 percent by 2020. One major problem faced by health workers and agencies is that one in five infected with HIV in Europe is unaware of their infected status. This increases the risks of ill health, death and further transmission of the disease. As Vytenis Andriukaitis, European commissioner for health and food safety pointed out, without overcoming the stigma of HIV, and without dispelling the false notions about its transmission, it will be difficult to meet the targets.

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