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European women diagnosed late with HIV

Friday November 29th, 2019

European women in their 40s are three to four times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV at a late stage compared to younger women, according to new figures.

2018 data published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the WHO Regional Office for Europe found that women accounted for one third of the 141,000 new HIV diagnoses in the WHO European Region.

Late diagnosis affects 54% of known cases among women. It is believed this is partly due to relatively low HIV testing coverage and uptake in the Region, as well as pointing to sexual risks, including HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, not being adequately addressed with older adults.

The figures reveal that 60% of women’s HIV diagnoses in 2018 were among the age group 30–49 years old. Heterosexual sex was the most commonly reported HIV transmission mode (92%) among women in the Region.

Dr Piroska Östlin, WHO Regional Director for Europe ad interim, said: “Late diagnosis in women indicates that gender-sensitive counselling and testing, including information about sexual health, is not reaching this population.

“It’s time to end the silence about sexual health, especially when it comes to HIV, and ensure that women are well informed and enabled to protect themselves. If we are to achieve universal health coverage, we need to improve prevention, treatment and care for women and reduce missed opportunities for testing those vulnerable to HIV in health facilities and in the community.”

Dr Andrea Ammon, director of ECDC, said it was important to understand how and where the current systems are failing so that improvements can be made in HIV testing.

“Diversifying and complementing testing opportunities is probably the best strategy to reach older adults,” she said. “One of the most significant factors that influences testing patterns among older adults is quite simple: actively offer an HIV test as health service provider.”

Central European countries reported almost six times fewer diagnoses among women compared to men in 2018, while there were three times fewer diagnoses among women than men reported in the European Union and European Economic Area (EU/EEA).

The only exception to this was the eastern part of the Region, where 86% of almost 50,000 cases reported in 2018 were among women.

Tags: Europe | Flu & Viruses

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