More people were infected with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) but were undiagnosed in the European Region, a new health report revealed on Wednesday.
The report, published jointly by the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), cited figures between 2018 and 2021.
It said an estimated one in eight people living with HIV in the European Union and European Economic Area (EU/EEA) remained undiagnosed.
“Continuing, widespread stigma around HIV is deterring people from getting tested and is steering us dangerously off course from meeting our 2030 goal of ending AIDS,” said WHO Regional Director for Europe Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge in a press release.
According to the report, late HIV diagnosis remains a major challenge in the Region because of under-diagnosis and under-reporting.
The WHO blamed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on testing services in the Region, “which overstretched clinical and public health surveillance resources, leading to many countries struggling to test and report new HIV infections.”
“In the absence of regular HIV testing for those most at risk, there can be a long period of time between HIV infection and diagnosis,” said ECDC Director Dr. Andrea Ammon in the press release.
“This is not good for individuals, as they have higher chances of severe illness and even death if diagnosed late. It is also not good for public health, as untreated positive individuals can unknowingly pass on HIV to their sexual partners,” Ammon added.
In 2021, nearly 300 new HIV diagnoses were made every day across 46 of the 53 countries in the WHO Europe Region, which amounted to 106,508 newly diagnosed HIV infections in the Region, according to the WHO data released ahead of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1.
However, last year’s new HIV diagnoses in the Region remained nearly 25 percent lower than pre-pandemic levels, said the report.