Annual rate of newly diagnosed HIV infections in Europe more than doubled

Copenhagen, 1 December 2009

Nearly 51 600 people in the WHO European Region were newly diagnosed as infected with HIV in 2008, more than double the annual rate in 2000. In the 43 countries in the Region that consistently reported HIV surveillance data during this period, the infection rate rose from 44 to 89 cases per million population, according to "HIV/AIDS surveillance in Europe 2008", a report released today. (1)

The surveillance data, collected jointly by the WHO Regional Office for Europe and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), reveal that HIV rates are highest in Estonia, Latvia, Kazakhstan, Portugal, the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. (Data were not available for Austria, Denmark, Liechtenstein, Monaco, the Russian Federation and Turkey.)

The new figures show that about 13% of the new infections are in young people aged 15–24 years, and 35% are in women. Slightly more than 25 000 of the newly infected people live in the eastern part of the Region, where the reported rate of HIV cases is 179 per million population: almost double that in the western part and 10 times that of the centre.

In 2008, 7565 people in the Region were diagnosed with AIDS, bringing the total number of diagnosed patients to 342 768. (Data were not available for Denmark, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Monaco, the Russian Federation, Sweden and Turkey.) Experts warn, however, that this total is greatly underestimated owing to incomplete reporting, particularly in the eastern part of the Region.

The collected data are broken down by age, gender and transmission mode. Experts say the report provides good insight into the population groups in which the epidemic is growing, how transmission is taking place and where prevention resources need to be focused.
The data included in the report confirm projections that HIV continues to spread via injecting drug use, sex between men and heterosexual contact. Injecting drug use is still the main mode of transmission in the eastern part of the WHO European Region, while the predominant mode in the centre and west is sex between men, followed by heterosexual contact.

Once again, the data confirm that the HIV epidemic in the east cannot be controlled without implementing comprehensive prevention strategies for injecting drug users, including harm-reduction interventions such as opioid substitution therapy and needle and syringe programmes.

Interventions to control the epidemic should be evidence based and adapted to the countries and geographical areas where they are implemented. “The HIV epidemic in the European Region remains diverse, and we need to closely monitor its trends and evaluate public health responses. HIV/AIDS surveillance data are vital for this process, and WHO strongly recommends that all Member States strengthen their surveillance systems,” says Dr Nata Menabde, Deputy Regional Director, WHO Regional Office for Europe. “Good surveillance systems, and better and more accurate data collection, will help us control the HIV epidemic by planning appropriate measures to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.”

For more information, contact:

Technical information:

Mr Martin Donoghoe
Adviser, HIV/AIDS Injecting Drug Use
and Harm Reduction WHO Regional Office for Europe Scherfigsvej 8, DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
Tel.: +45 39 17 12 07.

Press information:

Ms Liuba Negru
Press and Media Relations Officer
WHO Regional Office for Europe Scherfigsvej 8, DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
Tel.: +45 39 17 13 44.
Fax: +45 39 17 18 80