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Europe’s HIV epidemic growing at alarming rate, WHO warns

Europe’s HIV epidemic growing at alarming rate, WHO warns

REUTERS/YAHOO NEWS – KATE KELLAND

The number of people newly diagnosed with HIV in Europe reached its highest level in 2016 since records began, showing the region’s epidemic growing “at an alarming pace”, health officials said on Tuesday.

That year, 160,000 people contracted the virus that causes AIDS in the 53 countries that make up the World Health Organization’s European region, the agency said in a joint report with the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Around 80 percent of those were in eastern Europe, the report found.

“This is the highest number of cases recorded in one year. If this trend persists, we will not be able to achieve the … target of ending the HIV epidemic by 2030,” the WHO’s European regional director, Zsuzsanna Jakab, said in a statement.

The trend was particularly worrying, the organizations said, because many patients had already been carrying the HIV infection for several years by the time they were diagnosed, making the virus harder to control and more likely to have been passed on to others.

Early diagnosis is important with HIV because it allows people to start treatment with AIDS drugs sooner, increasing their chances of living a long and healthy life.

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