HIV: 122,000 Europeans are unaware they are infected

Almost 30,000 newly diagnosed HIV infections have been reported across Europe with viral hepatitis emerging as a silent epidemic

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Matthew Vella
14 February 2017, 9:26am
While the massive expansion of antiretroviral therapies has reduced the global number of people dying from HIV-related causes, prices remain very high
While the massive expansion of antiretroviral therapies has reduced the global number of people dying from HIV-related causes, prices remain very high
There are some 122,000 in Europe living with HIV who are unaware of their infection and are transmitting it to others, Labour MEP Alfred Sant told the HEPHIV 2017 conference, calling for countries to live up to their commitment to end the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030.

Almost 30,000 newly diagnosed HIV infections have been reported by the European Union and European Economic Area countries in 2015. This is similar to the observed notification trends in the last decade, a high incidence of infection which confirms the persistence of the HIV epidemic in modern society. 

The Maltese MEP said viral hepatitis could be emerging as a larger public health issue than HIV, turning into a silent epidemic where many do not know that they are infected, placing them at greater risk for severe, even fatal, complications from the disease.

“We need to encourage increased testing especially among key populations who are more at risk. It is still not easy for individuals to take the test. There is fear about the result, especially among high risk groups. We have come a long way in the management of HIV.

“Effective treatment is now available. A positive result is no longer a death sentence but a path to lifelong treatment. In fact, today we talk of people living with HIV just as we talk of people living with diabetes. But still the stigma persists. Many believe that HIV infection is a self-inflicted shame. We need to fight that stigma,” Sant said.

While the massive expansion of antiretroviral therapies has reduced the global number of people dying from HIV-related causes, prices remain very high, placing a burden on health authorities as they strive towards universal treatment and an end to the epidemic. “People who test positive need the full support of a professional team including psychological support. We need to develop enhanced tests which are fast, reliable and affordable,” Sant said.

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Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.