Slow progress in ending the AIDS epidemic

Progress towards the goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 has been too slow in Europe and Central Asia, with most countries likely to miss the interim targets set by the United Nations AIDS program (UNAIDS) for 2025, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has said.

This is despite the fact that the number of new HIV infections and AIDS-related mortality rates continue to fall in these regions, the ECDC said in a press release.

In 45 out of the 55 countries in Europe and Central Asia that could provide data, only 83 percent — or around 1.9 million out of an estimated 2.3 million — of those living with HIV knew about their infection in 2022, the ECDC said. The corresponding global rate was 86 percent.

Another target calls for 95 percent of those who are aware of their infection to be under treatment by 2025, while the average across the countries that reported data from the two regions was 85 percent in 2022, also lower than 89 percent worldwide, the ECDC said.

The third target stipulates that 95 percent of people undergoing treatment should be virally suppressed by 2025. Viral suppression refers to the percentage of people with diagnosed HIV who have less than 200 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood.

Although the current rate of 93 percent — the same level reported worldwide by UNAIDS — suggests that the two regions are on track to achieve the 2025 target, nine of the 45 countries are currently more than 10 percent away from meeting it, while seven countries had not submitted a progress report, the ECDC said.

To meet the targets, testing and treatment services should be scaled up, and countries should consider launching community and self-testing services, the ECDC said, adding that the affordability of HIV testing should be reviewed to ensure accessibility for all.

HIV testing should also be linked to clear standards and referral pathways for HIV care, which is particularly important since testing is increasingly done in what the ECDC called “non-traditional settings.”

However, only 43 of the countries in Europe and Central Asia had the linkage to care recommendations, while 23 were able to provide data on the proportion of people promptly linked to care, the ECDC said.

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