In Brief

HIV cases hit record high as epidemic sweeps Europe

Around 80% of new infections were in Eastern European countries

The HIV epidemic in Europe is growing “at an alarming pace”, with 160,000 newly diagnosed cases in 2016 - the highest number on record, according to a new report by the World Health Organization.

The agency says that 80% of those cases occurred in Eastern Europe, Reuters reports. The WHO European Region comprises 53 countries, with a total population of almost 900 million.

“Testing people late, particularly those at higher risk of infection, results in late treatment and further contributes to the ongoing spread of HIV,” the UN agency said in a statement.

The director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), Andrea Ammon, said the average period from estimated time of infection until a person was diagnosed was three years, “which is far too long”.

The Daily Mail reports: “Past findings suggest HIV rates are rising in Eastern Europe, particularly in those over 50 who inject illegal drugs, due to a lack of awareness campaigns on the infection’s risks or how to prevent transmission.” 

According to the newspaper, the WHO’s European regional director, Zsuzsanna Jakab, warns that if the virus - which causes Aids - continues to spread at the current rate, “we will not be able to achieve the ... target of ending the HIV epidemic by 2030”. 

Health officials say Europe needs to focus on prevention measures, HIV counselling and testing, along with better access to quality treatment care.

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