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Last Updated: Friday, 23 November 2007, 12:52 GMT
Rise in HIV/Aids cases in Europe
Cell infected with HIV
Cases of HIV are rising in Europe
The rate of new cases of HIV/Aids in the European Union has almost doubled since 1999, a report shows.

Estonia has by far the highest rate of diagnosis, followed by Portugal and the UK, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

The ECDC says that the proportion of new cases reported per million inhabitants went up across the EU from 28.8 to 57.5 in 2006.

In Estonia, the rate last year reached 504 per million people.

Estonia epidemic

The Estonian government says that, six years ago, 90% of new HIV cases diagnosed by Aids consultation clinics involved drug users who were injecting, but that proportion fell to below half by the end of last year.

It suggests that the virus has started to spread from drug users to their sexual partners.

The EU report says it has been impressed by Estonia's efforts to tackle its epidemic, which include a nine-year plan involving surveillance, prevention and treatment.

In non-EU areas of Europe the number of cases is also continuing to rise, with particularly high rates in Ukraine (288 per million) and Russia (275 per million).

The report says that more than half of infections are through heterosexual contact, although homosexual men remain at greater risk.

The figures come as the Health Protection Agency estimated that 73,000 adults in the UK now have HIV.

HIGHEST EU RATES
Estonia - 504.2 per million
Portugal - 205 per million
UK - 148.8 per million
Latvia - 130.3 per million
Luxembourg - 118.9 per million

A recent report from UNAids revealed much lower estimates of HIV infection worldwide than had been previously used - from nearly 40 million to 33 million.

But for people living in Europe and parts of Asia, the numbers tell a different story.

There were 26,220 newly diagnosed cases of HIV reported last year in 25 of the EU member states which gives an average of 67 cases per million.

While that might suggest the figure has more than doubled since 1999, the report emphasises that it has consistently reported data for only 20 states which give a lower average of 57.5 per million inhabitants.

Under-estimate

ECDC director Zsuzsanna Jakab said the true European figures are likely to be much higher it is estimated almost one third of people living with HIV in Europe are unaware they are infected.

LOWEST EU RATES
Bulgaria - 11.9 per million
Czech Republic - 9.1 per million
Romania - 8.3 per million
Hungary - 8 per million
Slovakia - 5 per million

"These people are less likely to take precautions against transmitting the virus, and are also unable to access treatment, and addressing this hidden epidemic is a priority for the ECDC," she said.

In raw figures the number of newly diagnosed cases reported in the UK last year is by far the highest at 8,925 followed by 5,750 in France and 2,718 in Germany.

But as a proportion of population, Estonia comes out top.

The lowest rate in the latest survey is in Slovakia, where 27 new HIV/AIDs cases were reported last year.

ECDC spokesperson, Ben Duncan, said in Western European countries such as the UK and France one of the main drivers of new cases was people migrating from areas of the world with HIV epidemics.

"Another big driver has been the increase in cases among men who have sex with men.

"Clearly, our prevention efforts are not having the desired effect - the safe sex message doesn't seem to be having the impact we would hope," he said.



SEE ALSO
UN HIV estimates reduced to 33m
20 Nov 07 |  Health
UK patients get newest HIV drug
19 Nov 07 |  Health
Condom call for young 'on pull'
11 Nov 06 |  Health
Chlamydia awareness on the rise
24 Oct 06 |  Health
HIV
27 Feb 06 |  Medical notes

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