The United Nations report on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe released on
February 17, 2004 warned that the spread of AIDS through the former
Soviet Union and Eastern Europe had reached crisis proportions. Though
the epidemic largely spared the region as it ravaged other areas in the
1980s and 1990s, AIDS is now spreading faster here than anywhere else.
One in every 100 adults in Russia and several other neighboring
countries now has HIV, a rate behind only sub-Saharan Africa and the
Caribbean. Most cases are a result of intravenous drug use, with the
hardest hit countries being Russia, Ukraine, Estonia and Latvia, while
the virus continues to spread quickly in Belarus, Kazakhstan and
Moldova, according to the first comprehensive U.N. study of AIDS in the
region. The U.N. forecasts that AIDS will cost Russia at least 9
million people by 2045, there are already an estimated 1 million people
with the virus by the end of 2003.
According to AVERT, an AIDS organization based in the UK, 165,454 HIV
infections had been reported in 17 countries of Western Europe by the
end of 2002. A total of 14,439 new cases of HIV were reported in 2002
for Western Europe:
- 44% of infections occurred through
- 26% were in men who have sex with men.
- 12% were in injecting drug users.
- 16% had no transmission-group reported.
- 35% were female.
- 30% were less than 30 years old.
The number of new HIV diagnoses in 2002 increased by 23% compared to
2001. This increase was mainly due to sharp increases in cases reported
in the UK, which accounted for 42% of all HIV infections reported in
the West and in Germany. This was due to a steep rise in heterosexual
transmission of HIV in the UK. Over 70% of heterosexually acquired HIV
infections reported in the UK were believed to have occurred in Africa,
many being in people who had recently migrated to the UK.
Overall in the West, heterosexual contact is now the most frequent
transmission mode, accounting for 44% of all new HIV cases reported in
2002. The alarming difference between the rate of AIDS cases in Western
and Eastern Europe has been referred to as “Europe’s New Iron Curtain,”
by the BBC.