Some 131 000 people were
newly infected with HIV in Europe and nearby countries in 2012, an eight per cent
rise from a year earlier and a worrying reversal of a recent downward trend in
Aids cases in the West.
A report published by the
World Health Organisation's (WHO) European office and the European Centre for
Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) showed a steady increase in new HIV cases
over the last year, but by far the majority of cases were in Eastern Europe and
"The high and
increasing number of Aids cases in the East is indicative of late HIV
diagnosis, low treatment coverage and delayed initiation of life-saving HIV
treatment," the ECDC/WHO report said.
Lack of prevention measures
Some 76 000 new HIV
infections were reported in Russia alone, accounting for more than half the
While reported Aids cases
had been declining steadily in Western Europe, dropping 48% between 2006 and
2012, in the east of the WHO's European Region, which includes many Asian former
Soviet republics, the number of people newly diagnosed with Aids increased by
Experts said this increase
was closely linked to a lack of prevention measures for people at high risk of
contracting the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes Aids.
These include clean needles
and syringes for drug users, free condoms and easy access to HIV testing for
sex workers and gay men, and early access to treatment with Aids drugs known as
antiretroviral therapy (ART) – for those who test positive.
"Our data show that
nearly every second person tested positive for HIV (in the region) – that's 49
percent – is diagnosed late in the course of their infection, which means they
need antiretroviral therapy right away because their immune system is already
starting to fail," said the ECDC's director Marc Sprenger.
Full and long lives
Worldwide, more than 35
million people have HIV, the vast majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa, where
access to prevention, testing and drugs is often limited by low funds.
Cocktails and combinations
of Aids drugs can keep the virus in check for many years, allowing those who
are diagnosed and treated early to live full and long lives.
Yet even in the relatively
wealthy WHO European Region, only one in three people with HIV is getting the
ART treatment they need, report said.
Michel Kazatchkine, the
United Nation's HIV/Aids Special Envoy in Eastern Europe, told Reuters in an
interview this month that HIV epidemics are becoming more concentrated in
marginalised groups such as sex workers, drug users and gay men, and could defy
global attempts to combat Aids if no progress is made in turning them around.
Sprenger said that to start
to do that more effectively "we need to make HIV testing more available
across Europe to ensure earlier diagnosis and more effective treatment and
Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO's
regional director for Europe, said providing Aids drugs earlier for those
infected with HIV would allow them to live longer and healthier lives, and help
reduce the risk that they transmit HIV to others.
"While we are not at
the end of the HIV epidemic in Europe, our goal of halting and reversing the
spread of HIV by 2015 is still achievable in many countries," she said.