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HIV In Europe Shoots To Record High, Putting Refugees At High Risk: WHO

Update Date: Nov 30, 2015 05:34 PM EST

Last year, there were more than 142,000 people diagnosed with HIV in Europe. This is the highest number of infections since the 1980s, according to the World Health Organisation.

The report  from WHO's Regional Office for Europe and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said the increase is mostly in Eastern Europe, where the infection cases show twice the number of infected people in the past decade.

This area includes Russia, Ukraine and 13 other countries in Central Asia and the Transcaucasus, said the Independent.

"Heterosexual transmission is responsible for the increase in eastern Europe, and transmission through drug injection remains substantial," the joint statement by the WHO and ECDC said.

But it has also been noted that in the European Union and the European Economic Area, male homosexual contact is the most common way in which the virus is becoming rife.

"HIV diagnosis among men who have sex with men have been rising at an alarming rate, from 30 percent in 2005 to 42 percent in 2014, with increase in all but six EU and EEA countries," WHO said.

ECDC acting director Andrea Ammon communicated to Europe that it should "scale up its efforts to reach out to this group. This includes looking at new strategies such as pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV and access to care for EU citizens residing in other EU countries."

WHO Regional Director Zsuzsanna Jakab said refugees who are flooding Europe are "at a high risk" of becoming HIV patients after landing here.

"Refugees and migrants remain a priority for HIV prevention and care," said Jakab. "Conflict and disasters should not affect access to HIV services for people living with HIV. When refugees and migrants are victims of social exclusion in receiving countries, they are at greater risk of HIV infection, and this may lead them to engage in risky behavior, increasing their risk for infection. This risk is exacerbated by inadequate access to HIV services and fear of being stigmatized. We at WHO urge all countries in Europe to offer HIV prevention, testing and treatment services to all refugees and migrants, irrespective of their legal status. This is also the safest way to protect the resident population from HIV infection."

On the other hand, a new report from UNAIDS also gives the opposite direction for international HIV infections. They have reduced to the lowest levels in 15 years. In 2014-15, there were 2 million new infections, compared to 3.1 million people diagnosed in 2000, reported Time.

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