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Eastern Europe Sees A Rise in Number of HIV Cases

Since the start of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, more than 77 million people worldwide have become infected with HIV.

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A patient is seen in a ward at the state-run Lavra clinic, Ukraine's main HIV treatment center, in Kyiv. VOA

More than 130,000 people were newly diagnosed with HIV last year in Eastern Europe, the highest rate ever for the region, while the number of new cases in Western Europe declined, global public health experts said on Wednesday.

European Union and European Economic Area countries saw a reduction in 2017 rates, mainly driven by a 20 percent drop since 2015 among men who have sex with men. That left Europe’s overall increasing trend less steep than previously.

All told, almost 160,000 people were diagnosed in Europe with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS, according to data from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) regional office for Europe.

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A man walks past a banner tied on a bus before the start of a charity walk on HIV/AIDS at the Ebute Mata district in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos, April 21, 2012. (VOA)

“It’s hard to talk about good news in the face of another year of unacceptably high numbers of people infected with HIV,” said Zsuzsanna Jakab, director of the WHO regional office.

Calling on governments and health officials to recognize the seriousness of the situation, she urged them: “Scale up your response now.”

The United Nations AIDS agency UNAIDS warned in July that complacency was starting to stall the fight against the global epidemic, with the pace of progress not matching what is needed.

Some 37 million people worldwide are infected with HIV.

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Students with their faces painted with messages pose during an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign to mark the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, in Chandigarh, India, May 20, 2018. (VOA)

The WHO’s European Region is made up of 53 countries with a combined population of nearly 900 million. Around 508 million of those live in the 28 member states of the European Union plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

The joint report said one reason for the persistence of HIV in Europe is that many people infected with the virus are diagnosed late, meaning they are more likely to have already passed it on and are also at an advanced stage of infection.

It also found that in the European region, men suffer disproportionately from HIV, with 70 percent of new HIV cases diagnosed in 2017 occurring in men.

Also Read: Experts Warn About The Return of AIDS Epidemic

Since the start of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, more than 77 million people worldwide have become infected with HIV.

Almost half of them – 35.4 million – have died of AIDS. (VOA)

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Progress in Combating Global HIV/AIDS Epidemics Receding

The joint U.N. program on HIV/AIDS, known as UNAIDS, warns the pace of progress in reducing new HIV infections

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Photo shows the headquarters of the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, May 22, 2019. VOA

A report issued on the eve of an international AIDS conference in Mexico finds progress in combating the global HIV/AIDS epidemic is receding.  The joint U.N. program on HIV/AIDS, known as UNAIDS, warns the pace of progress in reducing new HIV infections is slowing because nations lack the political will needed to end this scourge.

UNAIDS latest global update finds 1.7 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2018 and 770,000 died of AIDS-related illnesses.  The report finds more than 23 million people are receiving anti-retroviral treatment, but another 15 million are still not receiving this life-saving treatment.

UNAIDS Acting Executive Director Gunilla Carlsson says the report for the first time shows key populations and their sexual partners account for more than half of all new HIV infections.  She notes up to 54 percent of new infections is being spread by sex workers, drug users, men having sex with men, transgenders and prisoners.

She tells VOA these key populations suffer from stigma and discrimination.  Consequently, she says they are not being reached at the scale needed to stop transmission of HIV.

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A report issued on the eve of an international AIDS conference in Mexico finds progress in combating the global HIV/AIDS epidemic is receding. Pixabay

“The risk of those people being left behind and not being treated in a proper manner with access not only to rights, but also to treatment and care–if we cannot talk about that, we will not solve this.  We see in special regions then where this is extra-noticeable,” Carlsson said.

Carlsson says new infections have risen by 29 percent since 2010 in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.  During the same period, HIV infections have risen by 10 percent in the Middle-East and North Africa.

She says the global HIV/AIDS map shows a mixed picture.  She says some progress has been made in Western Europe and North America, though the number of new infections and deaths there remains unacceptably high.

As in the past, the report finds the majority of people living with HIV and new infections is in Eastern and Southern Africa.  However, it notes interventions in heavily-affected South Africa have succeeded in reducing HIV infections by 40 percent.

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Carlsson warns efforts to bring an end to the HIV/AIDS epidemic will fail without adequate funding.  She says available resources to respond to AIDS has fallen by nearly $1 billion.  Furthermore, she notes the UNAIDS program is more than $7 billion short of the estimated $26.2 billion needed by 2020. (VOA)