HIV diagnosis at all-time high in Eastern Europe, report says



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The number of new HIV diagnoses in the region continues to rise in 2017, but according to the report from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control and the WHO Regional Office for Europe. Still, nearly 160,000 people were newly diagnosed with the disease in the region in 2017. More than 130,000 of those diagnoses were in Europe's eastern region, the most ever reported there.

The rate in the East – 51.1 new cases diagnosed per 100,000 people – was "disproportionately higher" than in the West, which had a rate of 6.4 new cases per 100,000 people, the report found. Central Europe's rate was 3.2 diagnoses per 100,000 people.

Rates were highest in Russia, where 71 new cases were diagnosed per 100,000 people in 2017, followed by Ukraine and Belarus.

As a result, the region is not targeted to meet the 90-90-90 target by 2020, as set out by WHO and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV / AIDS.

On the front lines of Russia 's staggering & # 39; HIV epidemic

The aim is to diagnose 90% of all HIV-positive people, provide antiretroviral therapy for achieving diagnosed viral suppression for 90% of those treated.

The target is part of the Sustainable Development Goal for eliminating HIV in Europe, and worldwide, by 2030.

"We are quite far behind achieving those targets, particularly in Eastern Europe and Central Asia," said Dr. Masoud Dara, coordinator of communicable diseases and HIV team leads at WHO Europe.

"The significance is that we can see a sharp difference between Eastern Europe and the European Union where the number of HIV infection numbers is dropping."

In order to meet the target, new infections would need to decline by 78% by 2020, the report said.

Over the past three decades, more than 2.32 million people have been diagnosed with HIV in Europe. According to WHO, 36.9 million people are living with HIV globally in 2017. Africa, where the estimated number of people living with HIV is 25.7 million, was most affected.

Improving HIV testing

Wife said there were multiple factors behind the HIV rate in Eastern Europe, with a lack of prevention.

"The most important thing is to make sure that people … injecting drug users, commercial sex workers and who have sex with men have good preventative measures in place," Dara said.

"For injecting drug users, we need to have clear needle exchange programs. We don't have many of these in Eastern Europe as opposed to Western Europe," he said, adding that early testing for HIV needs to be in place, as well as treatment.

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"Treatment has been proven to be a prevention," he explained, and it helps suppress the virus, preventing people from infecting others.

Intravenous drug use and heterosexual contact were the most common ways in Europe's eastern region, the report said. Sex between men was most responsible for transmission in the European Union and European Economic Area.

In a statement, the WHO Regional Director for Europe Zsuzsanna Jakab called on governments to "scale up your response now."

The report calls on the "most at risk interventions to those tailoring" and to invest in prevention, testing and treatment.

Everyone is at risk

Dr. Anton Pozniak, president of the International AIDS Society, said there was a need to focus on removing the stigma that surrounds HIV diagnosis.

Rise in HIV diagnoses among people over 50 in Europe

"Policies that reduce social marginalization, stigma and discrimination are needed as are increased funding for prevention and testing," Pozniak said in a statement.

"In the East, particularly in Russia, the shift away from progressive social conservation legislation is a barrier to implementing HIV prevention and treatment."

With heterosexual contact and intravenous drug use among the most commonly reported transmission systems, they can be at risk of infection.

"No one should think, 'I never have HIV,'" he said. "That's very important, and we have to make sure that people are coming to tests at all levels."

Pozniak was reiterated that there could be a shift in who was affected most by HIV in Russia.

"People who inject drugs account for the majority of new diagnoses of key population at 48.8% but heterosexual sex may soon overtake injecting drug use as the main means of HIV transmission," he said.

"This is a potential shift from key populations to affecting the general population."

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