HIV infections hit record level across Europe

This increase is primarily attributed to heterosexual transmission in Eastern Europe

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The Independent Online

The number of newly diagnosed HIV cases in Europe has hit an all-time high of 142,000, it has been revealed.

The World Health Organisation said the figure was the largest the continent had suffered since case reports began in the 1980s.

“Despite all the efforts to fight HIV, this year the European Region has reached over 142,000 new HIV infections, the highest number ever,” says Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe.

“This is a serious concern”.

This rise of the epidemic is primarily attributed to Eastern Europe, where new diagnoses have more than doubled in the past decade.

WHO says the increase in the Eastern region is mainly due to heterosexual transmission and injected drug use.

However, sex between men is still the most common mode of HIV transmission across the continent.

European Centre for Disease Prevention Control acting director Andrea Ammon said: “Europe has to scale up its efforts to reach out to this group. This includes looking at new strategies such as pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV and access to care for EU citizens residing in other EU countries.”

Dr Jakab warned that migrants and refugees were at a high risk of infection after they arrived in Europe, because social exclusion made them more likely to engage in risky behaviour. Only half of European Union and European Economic Area countries provide free treatment for undocumented migrants.

New WHO guidelines say all those infected with HIV should be provided with antiretroviral therapy regardless of their CD4 count – an indicator of how effectively the immune systems of those with the virus are functioning.

Experts sat there is strong evidence the treatment can improve the health of those infected and reduce the chance of transmission.

Research shows early testing and early diagnosis can also significantly reduce the chance of patients developing AIDS.