European testing week starts on Friday. HIV has decreased more than any other cause of death in Europe. Between 2011 and 2016, deaths due to HIV dropped by nearly a third.
But even as the continent as a whole is making significant progress towards ending the disease, parts of eastern Europe are in the grip of a new epidemic.
In 2016, 0.35 per 100,000 inhabitants died from HIV-related causes in Overijssel. The rate translates to less than five actual deaths, which is somewhat lower than the European average.
Compared to the rest of Netherlands, Overijssel has a relatively high rate of deaths due to HIV. The highest rate in the country is found in South Holland and the lowest rate in North Brabant.
The highest rates of deaths due to HIV can be found in the Iberian Peninsula, the Baltic States and parts of Eastern Europe, but looking over time, these regions are on very different trajectories.
Portugal, which has long had some of Europe’s highest rates of HIV infections, now has some of the continent’s biggest declines in deaths due to the virus. The country’s response to its HIV crisis has been a success story, which the World Health Organization attributes to the country’s progressive drug policy, needle exchanges and a comprehensive prevention and treatment programme.
Similar decreases from high levels can be found in Spain and Estonia, and across Europe, deaths due to HIV have fallen by nearly a third in five years.
But at the same time, parts of eastern Europe, especially Romania, are in the grip of an HIV epidemic. Deaths are rising sharply, and approaching the highest levels in Europe.
In Bucharest, the Romanian capital, deaths due to HIV have increased from a rate of 1.5 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2011 to 3.76 per 100,000 in 2016, an increase of over 150%.
The rate of HIV among intravenous drug users in Bucharest is up from 1% in 2007 to 53% in 2012, and people who inject drugs now make up a quarter of all infections.
Overijssel is also one of few regions where deaths due to HIV have actually increased in the past five years. In 2011 0.18 people per 100,000 inhabitants died from HIV-related causes, compared to 0.35 in 2016.
There is a gender difference in deaths due to HIV. Across the EU, HIV skews heavily male with men 60% more likely to die of HIV-related causes. This trend has strengthened over the last five years.
Netherlands is one of few countries in Europe where women and men were about as likely to die of HIV-related causes in 2016.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control describes the overall development in Europe as “substantial progress” towards ending the epidemic by 2030, and reaching the United Nations’ 90-90-90 goal, where 90% of infections are diagnosed, 90% of diagnosed infections treated and 90% of patients receiving treatment non-transmissible.
At the same time, the same report describes developments in eastern Europe as “concerning”.
Text, research and charts:: Clara Guibourg, email@example.com
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