Today is World AIDS Day, so this November 27 ECDC report is timely: No decline since 2004: Europe’s HIV response falls short in curbing epidemic. Click through to download the news release.
In 2013, more than 29 000 new diagnoses have been reported by the countries of the European Union and European Economic Area (EU/EEA), according to the latest HIV/AIDS surveillance data. Despite advances in medical treatment and HIV prevention options, the HIV epidemic in Europe shows no signs of slowing down.
Since 2004, more than 300 000 people have been diagnosed with HIV in the EU/EEA. This translates into fairly stable rates in HIV diagnoses per 100 000 population over the last decade with a rate of 6.5 in 2004 compared to 6.2 in 2013 when adjusted for reporting delay.
“The question is why we have not seen any significant progress in reducing HIV infections in the last ten years. Looking at our data, we clearly see that across Europe the populations most at-risk of HIV infection are not reached effectively enough, particularly men who have sex with men”, explains ECDC Director Marc Sprenger.
In the EU/EEA, sex between men is still the predominant mode of HIV transmission, which accounted for 42% of newly diagnosed HIV infections in 2013. Sprenger adds: “The number of HIV diagnoses among this group has increased by 33% compared to 2004 – and has been going up in all but four countries. This is why prevention and control of HIV among men who have sex with men has to be a cornerstone of national HIV programmes across Europe.”
In addition, late diagnoses remains a critical issue in Europe: 47% of newly reported HIV cases are diagnosed as so-called late presenters, which means their immune system is already starting to fail and they have a significantly higher risk of dying. This indicates that testing rates are too low – especially among key populations at higher risk of infection.
At a ministerial conference organised by the Italian EU Presidency on HIV/AIDS in Rome, ECDC Director Marc Sprenger highlighted today that “low rates of testing mean that many people who need treatment are not receiving it because they have not yet been diagnosed. If we want to effectively curb the HIV epidemic, we have to test more and earlier to ensure that all HIV positive people have access to treatment and care.”
In contrast to HIV infections, the number of AIDS cases in the EU/EEA has consistently declined during the last decade: the rate of reported AIDS cases halved from 2.1 per 100 000 population (9 455 cases) reported in 2004.