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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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HIV AIDS, Pakistan
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.

HIV, AIDS
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.

AIDS, Indonesia, HIV
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)

Next Story

Ebola Vaccine Approved in Europe in Landmark Moment

The next step, prequalification by the World Health Organization, is expected within days

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Ebola, Vaccine, Europe
FILE - Congolese Health Ministry officials carry the first batch of experimental Ebola vaccines in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, May 16, 2018. VOA

This week the European Commission gave approval to a Ebola vaccine — an act that the World Health Organization calls landmark moment for global health and a likely game-changer in the battle against this deadly disease.

This is the first time an Ebola vaccine has been licensed anywhere in the world.  The next step, prequalification by the World Health Organization, is expected within days.

Prequalification means WHO is satisfied with the vaccine’s quality, safety and effectiveness.

WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier tells VOA this is an important step and a great achievement for public health.

Ebola, Vaccine, Europe
This is the first time an Ebola vaccine has been licensed anywhere in the world. Wikimedia Commons

“This will speed up any further process of getting a vaccine into a country for licensing, for manufacturing, for having more quantity of the vaccine whenever we need it or ahead of a presumed outbreak in order to vaccinate health care workers and first-line responders to have them ready for the battle against Ebola,” said Lindmeier.

The vaccine, in its experimental stage, has been and continues to be used in the ongoing Ebola epidemic in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.  It has been used to protect more than 250,000 people in the DRC’s Ituri and North Kivu provinces.

Lindmeier says WHO has developed a roadmap aimed at accelerating prequalification and licensing of the vaccine.  This will enable the agency to quickly roll out the vaccine in high risk countries in Africa.

“What does this mean right now for the Democratic Republic of Congo?  Right now, nothing will change because the vaccines as they are available will be used… But it is absolutely great news to see that this has now been approved and will be prequalified,” said Lindmeier.

Also Read- Indians Are Cooking Western Food In Their Kitchens: Survey

Lindmeier says there likely will be a higher demand for Ebola vaccine in coming years.  He says WHO is working with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the United Nations Children’s Fund and other partners to develop a Global Ebola Vaccines Security Plan to fulfill growing needs and to ensure vaccine security. (VOA)