Europe’s HIV epidemic is growing at an ‘alarming pace’ as infections reached their highest level in 2016 since records began, health officials reveal today.
Last year, around 160,000 people contracted HIV, which causes AIDS, in 53 European countries, according to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
Over the past decade, the rate of newly-diagnosed HIV infections in Europe has risen by 52 per cent from 12 in every 100,000 people in 2007 to 18.2 for every 100,000 in 2016, the report adds.
According to the report, this increase was ‘mainly driven by the continuing upward trend in the East’, which accounts for around 80 per cent of Europe’s cases.
Zsuzsanna Jakab, European regional director of the WHO, said: ‘This is the highest number of cases recorded in one year. If this trend persists, we will not be able to achieve the target of ending the HIV epidemic by 2030.’
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.
Europe’s HIV epidemic is growing at an ‘alarming pace’, health officials warn today
INJECTION PREVENTS HIV FROM SPREADING AND MAY CURE THE DISEASE
Scientists may be one step closer to developing a cure for HIV, research suggested in July.
An injection may soon be available that prevents the virus spreading and could rid sufferers of the infection, a study implies.
Researchers from multiple institutions, including Texas A&M University, injected cows with HIV, all of which developed an immune response within as little as 35 days, the study found.
When the immune cells of the cows were analyzed, one in particular was found to bind to a key site on HIV that the virus uses to spread infection, the research adds.
The researchers believe such immune cells could be incorporated into an injection to neutralize HIV in infected humans.
Currently, there is no cure for HIV, with patients usually being required to take lifelong medication that causes nausea, diarrhea and insomnia.
‘Europe needs to do more in its HIV response’
Andrea Ammon, director of the ECDC, said, ‘Europe needs to do more in its HIV response,’ adding the average time from infection to diagnosis is three years ‘which is far too long’.
Many patients carry HIV for several years before being diagnosed, making the infection harder to control and increasing the risk of it being passed to others.
Early diagnosis allows people to start AIDS treatment sooner, increasing their chances of living a long and healthy life.
The report claims new strategies are needed to expand HIV testing, including self-testing services.
Almost 37 million people worldwide are infected with HIV, with regions such as Africa, where access to testing, prevention and treatment is more limited, being particularly affected.
Yet, an ECDC study published earlier this year found around one in six new cases of HIV diagnosed in Europe are in people over 50.