(CNN) The HIV epidemic in Europe is still growing at an alarming rate, particularly in Eastern Europe, according to a new report.
The number of new HIV diagnoses in the region continued to rise in 2017, but the pace of the increase is slowing, according to the report from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control and the WHO Regional Office for Europe. Still, nearly 160,000 people were newly diagnosed with the infection in the region in 2017. More than 130,000 of those diagnoses were in Europe’s eastern region, the most ever reported there.
The rate in the East — 51.1 new cases diagnosed per 100,000 people — was “disproportionately higher” than in the West, which had a rate of 6.4 new cases per 100,000 people, the reportfound. Central Europe’s rate was 3.2 diagnoses per 100,000 people.
Rates were highest in Russia, where 71 new cases were diagnosed per 100,000 people in 2017, followed by Ukraine and Belarus.
As a result, the region is not on track to meet the 90-90-90 target by 2020, as set out by WHO and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.
“Policies that reduce social marginalisation, stigma and discrimination are needed as are increased funding for prevention and testing,” Pozniak said in a statement.
“In the East, particularly in Russia, the shift away from progressive policies towards socially conservative legislation is a barrier to implementing HIV prevention and treatment.”
With heterosexual contact and intravenous drug use among the most commonly reported means of transmission in the East, Dara said, it is important for everyone to realize they could be at risk of infection.
“No one should think, ‘I won’t ever have HIV,’ ” he said. “That’s very important, and we have to make sure that people are coming for tests at all levels.”
Pozniak reiterated that there could be a shift in who is affected most by HIV in Russia.
“People who inject drugs account for the largest proportion of new diagnoses of any key population at 48.8% but heterosexual sex may soon overtake injecting drug use as the main means of HIV transmission,” he said.
“This is a potential shift from mainly affecting key populations to affecting the general population.”