Eastern Europe is responsible for 82% of the 159,420 new cases of HIV infection diagnosed in Europe in 2017, according to a report released today by the World Health Organization.
The report, produced by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the WHO Regional Office for Europe, notes that in the 15 countries in the eastern region 130,861 new HIV cases were identified, with the highest rates in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova.
On the contrary, the western region, which includes Portugal and the European Union and European Economic Area countries, has seen a decline in the rates of new diagnoses, mainly due to a 20% reduction since 2015 between men who have sex with men.
In Portugal, data collected by the National Institute of Health Doctor Ricardo Jorge point to a reduction to less than half the number of new HIV diagnoses in the last decade, of 2,238 cases, corresponding to a rate of 21.2 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2008 , to 1,068 cases, equivalent to 10.3 per 100,000 inhabitants by 2017.
Of the new diagnoses of HIV among Portuguese in 2017, 768, or 72%, were male, compared to only 300 cases of women, according to the WHO report released days before the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day , on December 1st.
The study reports that heterosexual transmission accounted for 57% of new diagnoses in 2017 in Portugal, followed by transmission among men who have sex with men, 37% of new diagnoses last year.
On the other hand, transmission attributable to injecting drug use declined by 95% in a decade from 370 new HIV cases in 2007 to only 18 in 2016, a success attributed to HIV prevention, testing and treatment programs for drug users.
For Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, “it’s hard to talk about good news in the face of yet another year of unbelievably high numbers of people infected with HIV.”
She does not believe it is possible to meet the 90-90-90 target by 2020, that is, diagnose 90% of all people with HIV, provide antiretroviral therapy to 90% of people diagnosed and reach viral suppression in 90 % of people treated.
The strategy for the future, he said, must be to adapt interventions, investing “wisely in prevention, testing and treatment, especially in key populations.”