European health agencies say more testing needed to detect HIV infection

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EUROPEAN health agencies say the number of people diagnosed with HIV is increasing in Europe, with many cases diagnosed beyond the usual time.

The two European health agencies – the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) European office – said on Thursday that the increasing number had highlighted the need for more testing.

According to the agencies, more than 136,000 new cases of HIV were recorded in 2019.

In line with recent years, most of the new HIV cases is about 80 per cent and in the eastern regions of Europe.

More than two million people are affected by HIV in the 53 countries that the UN health agency groups in the European region. Half of the HIV diagnoses were made at “a late stage of infection,’’ according to a report released ahead of World AIDS Day, on Dec. 1.

“This is a sign that testing strategies in the region are not working properly to diagnose HIV early,” the agencies said.

Early diagnosis means earlier treatment, which can contribute to reducing HIV transmission.

“Despite the focus on COVID-19 right now, we must not lose sight of other public health issues like HIV,“ ECDC Director Andrea Ammon said.

The ECDC, based in Stockholm, covers the 27-nation European Union, Britain, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Although it was not known how the pandemic has affected HIV testing, “our message has to be to protect the progress of the last decade by continuing to prioritise HIV testing and getting treatment to those who need it,’’ said Hans Kluge, head of the Copenhagen-based WHO European region.

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26, N0V 2020 @15:06 GMT

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