News

    Number of HIV/AIDS Cases Continues to Rise in Europe Despite Prevention Campaigns

    Lisa Bryant

    The number of HIV/AIDS cases in Europe pales in comparison to Africa, but the problem remains serious and the number of cases continues to rise despite prevention campaigns. As Lisa Bryant reports from Paris, Eastern Europe continues to suffer a much higher toll than the rest of the region.

    The latest report by UN/AIDS estimates that about 740,000 people live with HIV/AIDS in western and central Europe. About 1.5 million in eastern Europe and central Asia are infected. Those numbers concern AIDS workers.

    One reason is because the number of HIV/AIDS cases has been rising, despite years of prevention campaigns. Eastern Europe is a case in point. The number of known HIV cases has increased 150 percent since 2001.

    In countries like Serbia, it is not clear how many people have contracted the virus. Dragana Stojanovic, spokeswoman for a Serb youth AIDS organization Jazas, says official estimates count only about 1,500 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. But the World Health Organizations estimates that up to 25,000 are HIV positive.

    "At the present - and I'm not saying the estimation is going to remain this way in the coming years - but at the present, we have the largest amount of HIV-positive people in the population of intravenous drug users and men having sex with men," said Stojanovic.

    Serbia's low estimates are partly because so few Serbs have tested themselves for the virus. Until recently, testing was not free or confidential.

    Stojanovic says those living with the virus are also stigmatized - and they often have difficulty getting treatment.

    "The possibilities of treatment are not high yet," said Stojanovic. "The government is covering the costs of treatment, but this is a slow procedure and it takes a lot of time. And not all the drugs that are available are on the white list."

    If the drugs are not on the white list, that means patients cannot get their drug purchases reimbursed.

    Serbia is not the only country with low testing. Recent surveys suggest more than half of Europe's HIV-positive population does not know they have the virus. At a Brussels conference on HIV/AIDS in Europe earlier this week, experts called for earlier HIV testing to fight rising infection rates. The WHO reported nearly 87,000 new infections in the European region in 2006.

    After years of HIV/AIDs awareness and prevention campaigns, it seems surprising that infection is growing in Europe. So what when wrong? That's a question European Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou would like answered.

    "I think the main problem with HIV/AIDS is mostly our naiveté. We're naive about it," said Kyprianou. "We thought we managed to control... and we allowed it to become the forgotten disease. And that's why for the European Commission the basic motto, the basic phrase for this disease, is remember me. Because we know many technical and scientific aspects of this problem, but we have to remind people that it still exists."

    Experts say that, today, there is a certain complacency toward HIV/AIDS in Europe, because people are aware they will not die if they acquire the virus, thanks to new anti-retroviral drugs. And a new generation of Europeans is growing up without the messages delivered by the biggest AIDS-prevention campaigns, which took place in the 1980s and '90s.

    Miriam Hagebolling says this is true for Germany - even though the country only has 59 thousand people living with the virus, one of the lowest numbers in eastern Europe. Hagebolling is political coordinator for Action Against AIDS Germany, an umbrella group of NGOs.

    "Especially in the young population - if I look at my own peer group - there's a tiredness about AIDS," said Hagebolling. "People are saying yes, it's affecting homosexuals and drug users but it's not affecting me."

    France, with one of Europe's highest infection rates, is facing the same phenomenon, says Emmanuel Chateau, co-president of the French advocacy group Act Up-Paris.

    "It was a mistake to think that the epidemic was [just] striking the high-risk groups," said Chateau. "There are heterosexuals that have sex [with their own gender] and drug users that have sex. So it was a mistake to think it only concerned one part of the population."

    Chateau also criticizes new legislation taxing anti-retroviral drugs, which are available to AIDS patients free of charge - apart from the tariff.

    Still the picture is not uniformly bleak. Bertil Lindblad, UN/AIDS regional director for Europe, says he has seen remarkable progress in fighting the virus in parts of eastern Europe. Lindblad, who is based in Moscow, says Russia is a case in point.

    "For example, in Russia there's been a massive increase in the funding from the national budget for treatment and HIV and AIDS work, and last year there was a government commission on HIV established under the auspices of President Putin," said Lindblad.

    Overall, Lindblad says, the report card is mixed. Globally, the prevalence of HIV has leveled off - reflecting better efforts to prevent, monitor and fight the epidemic. But in Europe as elsewhere, HIV/AIDS remains a major challenge.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.