Europe: Thousands of people know nothing about their “HIV infection”
On average, three years pass before a person in Europe learns of his HIV infection. As the number of diagnoses in the EU falls, researchers in the East are watching a dramatic trend.
In Europe, more than 29,000 people were diagnosed with HIV in the past year. This means that the number of newly discovered infections in the countries of the EU and the European Economic Area has fallen slightly. At the same time, however, thousands would not know about their illness, warns a current report .
About every second diagnosis will be made at a late stage, said the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). As a result, patients would have far worse treatment options, said ECDC Director Andrea Ammon. In addition, there is a risk that they will pass on the virus.
“On average, it takes three years from infection to diagnosis – which is far too long,” says Ammon. The sooner an infection is detected, the greater the chances of the infected person being able to live a healthy and long life using medication. By contrast, late-onset therapy increases the risk that the immune deficiency disease AIDS develops from the infection.
Greater Europe: the only region in which case numbers are increasing
The situation in the metropolitan area of Europe, which includes WHO, Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan among others, is even more worrying than in the EU. In the area, the researchers documented a total of 160,000 new HIV diagnoses in 2016. This means that the region, which includes a total of 53 countries, is the only one in the world with an increasing number of infections, according to the report.
In the past ten years, the number of diagnoses in the Greater Europe has increased by more than 50 percent:
- In 2007, about 12 out of every 100,000 residents in the region still received HIV diagnosis.
- In 2016, the virus was diagnosed in 18.2 out of 100,000 residents.
About 80 percent of the diagnoses were made by physicians in Eastern Europe, as the data show. The highest infection rate was measured with 33.7 HIV diagnoses per 100,000 inhabitants in Ukraine. Among the EU countries, Latvia is hardest hit, with 18.5 diagnoses per 100,000 inhabitants.
Germany: More than 12,000 infected people without a diagnosis
In Germany, according to estimates by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), just over 3,000 people were infected with the virus last year – including 2,500 men and 700 women. Particularly affected is Berlin. An estimated 12,700 of the 88,400 people living with HIV in this country do not know, according to the RKI, that they are infected.
In addition to the use of condoms, protection against infection also includes so-called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP for short. Healthy people swallow HIV medications so that the body can fend off the virus in contact. Since 2016, the method has also been approved in the EU . However, interested people in Germany still have to bear the costs of around 50 euros per month, in contrast to neighboring France, for example.
According to the German Aids Society, the PrEP is especially interesting for a small high-risk group: men and transgender people who also have unprotected sex with men who change frequently as well as partners of untreated HIV-infected people. First analyzes from Germany show that especially people with above-average income use the method, many want to go safe despite condom.