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Tens of thousands are unaware of their own HIV infection

Tens of thousands are unaware of their own HIV infection


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Worldwide, new HIV infections are only increasing in Europe

The European Region is the only region of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the world where the number of new HIV infections is still increasing. In addition, roughly every second person living with HIV in this region receives a late diagnosis. Tens of thousands of Europeans are still unaware of their infection.

The number of new HIV infections in Germany is not falling

Last year, the United Nations agreed on an ambitious plan: the global AIDS epidemic should end by 2030. The UN had announced a turnaround in the previous year and announced that there were around 40 percent fewer HIV deaths worldwide. However, almost 37 million people still live with the HIV virus. And there are still new infections. The number of new HIV infections is not falling in Germany either.

The only region with increasing HIV infections

Around 3,100 people in Germany were infected with HIV in 2016, the number of new infections remains constant compared to 2015. In total, around 88,400 people with HIV lived in Germany at the end of last year.

"An estimated 12,700 of the 88,400 people with HIV do not know that they are infected," said Lothar H. Wieler, President of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) in a statement.

The situation is no better in Europe as a whole: As the World Health Organization reports, the European Region is the only WHO region in the world where the number of new HIV infections is still increasing.

This trend continued in 2016 with over 160,000 new HIV diagnoses in the European Region, including 29,000 cases from the countries of the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA).

One reason for this worrying development is that over half (51%) of all reported HIV diagnoses are made late in the infection.

Delayed diagnosis contributes to the spread of the virus

"The HIV epidemic continues to spread at an alarming rate in the European Region, especially in the eastern part of the region, which accounts for almost 80% of the 160,000 new HIV diagnoses," explains Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe.

“This is the highest registered number of new cases within a year. If this trend continues, we will not be able to meet the targets set in the Sustainable Development Goals to end the HIV epidemic by 2030, ”warns the expert.

“A late diagnosis, especially in high-risk groups, results in late treatment and contributes to the further spread of HIV. The later a person is diagnosed, the more likely they are to develop AIDS, which will increase their suffering and risk of death, ”says Dr. Jakab.

"On World AIDS Day, I urge all countries to take decisive action now to bring about a turnaround in the HIV epidemic in the European Region."

European countries have to do more

"To get closer to our goal of eliminating HIV, we need to ensure early diagnosis for everyone and reach risk groups and the most vulnerable," said European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Dr. Vytenis andriukaitis.

"We will only be successful if we work across borders, across disciplines and organizations to create easy access to diagnostic services and to remove barriers such as stigmatization and discrimination."

"Our data shows that, given the over 29,000 new HIV infections reported annually in the EU and EEA countries, Europe has to do more to combat HIV," warns the director of the "European Center for Disease Prevention and Control" (ECDC) , Dr. Andrea Ammon.

“On average, it takes about three years from the time of infection to diagnosis, which is far too long. In the long term, this leads to less favorable courses for the numerous late diagnosed persons and at the same time increases the risk of further transmission of the virus, ”says Ammon.

"A good two thirds of new AIDS diagnoses in the EU and EEA countries - more precisely: 68% - were made within the first three months after being diagnosed with HIV, which indicates that these people had been infected years before."

In the age group over 50, two thirds are diagnosed late

Surveillance data on HIV / AIDS for 2016, published by the ECDC and the WHO Regional Office for Europe, shows that the proportion of patients diagnosed late increases with age.

Overall, 65% (EU / EEA: 63%) of those over 50 in the European Region were diagnosed late in the course of their HIV infection.

For this higher age group in particular, community health care plays a crucial role in terms of the chance of an early HIV diagnosis.

Carrying out HIV tests for the presence of certain diseases such as sexually transmitted infections, viral hepatitis, tuberculosis or certain types of cancer could also contribute to an improved diagnosis.

Effective and comprehensive prevention measures

The Directors of the WHO Regional Office for Europe and the ECDC emphasize that Europe needs to focus on three key areas of action to reduce the number of new HIV infections:

1. Priority for effective and comprehensive preventive measures such as awareness-raising, promotion of protected sexual intercourse, condom use and substitution therapy and introduction of needle exchange programs and pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV;

2. Provide HIV counseling and testing, including rapid diagnosis, community HIV testing, and HIV self-testing; and

3. Establish quick access to quality treatment and care for the diagnosed cases.

Higher life expectancy through early diagnosis

Early diagnosis is so important because it enables those affected to start therapy earlier, which in turn increases their chances of a long and healthy life.

In addition, early treatment reduces the risk of further transmission of HIV because it leads to an undetectable viral load, which means that the virus can no longer be transmitted to other people.

It can also reduce the risk of developing AIDS, contracting and contracting tuberculosis.

Guidelines for improving testing in the European Region

WHO's consolidated guidelines on HIV testing target HIV program managers, health workers and other key stakeholders to help improve access to HIV counseling and testing.

In particular, it promotes the introduction of self-tests and the offer of advice and examination by trained community-based service providers in order to increase acceptance among those affected.

These guidelines, along with the guidelines for HIV self-testing and partner notification, are designed to help countries gradually achieve the global, region and country goal of diagnosing 90% of people infected with HIV by 2020. (ad)

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