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Home Eurosurveillance Weekly Release  2003: Volume 7/ Issue 48 Article 1
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Eurosurveillance, Volume 7, Issue 48, 27 November 2003

Citation style for this article: HIV diagnoses are increasing in the European Union. Euro Surveill. 2003;7(48):pii=2331. Available online:

HIV diagnoses are increasing in the European Union

Françoise F. Hamers, EuroHIV Project Leader, Institut de Veille Sanitaire, Saint-Maurice, France

HIV is still one of the most important communicable diseases in Europe. It is a long-term, life threatening condition that substantially contributes to inequalities in health and is associated with high costs. In the European Union, HIV transmission continues to occur at unacceptable rates, the numbers of people living with HIV is increasing, and resistance to antiretroviral drugs is probably increasing. EuroHIV (the European Centre for the Epidemiological Monitoring of AIDS, has this month published its mid-year report for 2003 (1).

In western Europe, despite the wide availability of combination therapy, reports of newly diagnosed HIV infections reported each year increased steadily between 1997 and 2002 (+47%) and the trend continues in 2003. While HIV reports have gradually decreased in injecting drug users in western Europe (-9% during 1997-2002), they increased markedly in persons infected through heterosexual contact (+116%), largely due to an increase in the number of cases diagnosed in people originating from countries outside Europe with generalised HIV epidemics. In men who have sex with men, reports increased in 2002 (+22% compared with 2001) after a slow decline in previous years. AIDS incidence increased in 2002 after several years of continuing decline, while the number of AIDS deaths continued to fall. The number of persons living with AIDS rose steadily in western Europe to around 108 000 at 30 June 2003.

In eastern Europe, HIV reports among injecting drug users decreased for the first time in 2002 (-53%) after several years of steep increase. HIV infections attributed to heterosexual transmission, however, continued to increase steadily (+31%). Most of these cases are in the sexual partners of injecting drug users. There is a risk of further spread of HIV to the wider heterosexual population. The Baltic states, which in 2004 accede to the European Union (EU), are among the countries with the highest HIV report rates.

Population migration from high prevalence countries outside Europe and east-west migration within Europe play an increasing role in the epidemiological situation in Europe, underlining the importance of a Europe-wide approach to epidemiological surveillance.

EuroHIV was the first Europe-wide communicable disease surveillance network, and has provided reliable, regularly updated and comparable data on HIV/AIDS across Europe for 20 years. The production of HIV/AIDS figures across Europe may however come to an end in 2004 due to discontinuation of funding by the European Commission. Statistics on HIV/AIDS across Europe are essential to public health and widely used in HIV/AIDS prevention, control and treatment for EU citizens.

  1. European Centre for the Epidemiological Monitoring of AIDS. HIV/AIDS Surveillance in Europe. Mid-year report 2003. Saint-Maurice: Institut de Veille Sanitaire; 2003. No. 69. ( [accessed 26 November 2003]

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