Europe has seen a rise in undiagnosed HIV infections — the World Health Organization (WHO) and European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) reported that between at least 2018 to 2021, there have been more HIV infections than diagnoses.
The full report showed that testing rates fell during the COVID-19 pandemic and has hindered progress toward eliminating new HIV transmissions by 2030.
“We should all be deeply concerned by the data on HIV testing, treatment and care in Europe and Central Asia,” said Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “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.”
A model used to predict the estimated number of infections and comparing that to testing data from 46 of the 53 countries in the WHO’s European region estimated that one in eight people living with HIV in those regions remain undiagnosed.
A disruption in testing and treatment matter. The longer the time period between infection and diagnosis, the higher the probability of death or severe illness. Additionally, it raises the risk of unknowingly passing on the virus to other partners.
The report further discusses the overstretched resources during the pandemic, which ultimately led to many countries struggling to test and report new infections during the pandemic. Under-diagnosis and under-reporting make late HIV diagnosis a major challenge in the region.
Moving forward, new strategies are required to improve early diagnosis. Expanding diversified and user-friendly approaches to HIV testing is thought to help make more people aware of their infection.