A total of 2015 people in Bulgaria have HIV or AIDS, with 195 new cases reported since the beginning of 2014, the Health Ministry said on December 1, World AIDS Day.
The head of the ministry’s programme for the prevention and control of HIV-AIDS, Dr Tonka Vurleva, said that of the new cases in 2014, 82 per cent were men and 18 per cent women.
Most of the new infections, 42 per cent, were in the 30 to 39 age group. Ninety-four cases were in Sofia city and region, 22 in Plovdiv, 11 in Varna, nine in Pazardzhik, eight in Bourgas and seven in Haskovo.
The proportion of new infections among homosexual men had increased, to 42 per cent.
Among pregnant women, of 30 000 tested for HIV since the start of 2014, five had been found to be infected.
European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, ina message ahead of World AIDS Day, said: Despite considerable progress in the fight against the HIV/AIDS, it continues to cause much suffering to people in Europe and around the world.”
According to the latest figures released by the European Centre for Diseases Prevention and Control (ECDC), there were 29 000 new HIV infections in the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) in 2013.
In the EU, almost half (47 per cent) of infections are diagnosed late, which reflects low testing rates often caused by fear of discrimination.
“Early diagnosis is of utmost importance as a person who receives antiretroviral therapy early on will have a better health outcome and be less likely to transmit HIV to others,” Andriukaitis said.
In the 10 years since the launch of the Dublin declaration in 2004, there have been some positive trends as well as some worrying ones. The good news is that mother to child transmission has been virtually eliminated in the EU, and the number of new infections amongst heterosexuals has been steadily declining, Andriukaitis said.
“However, the bad news is that the number of new infections diagnosed in certain risk groups such as men who have sex with men has increased by 33 per cent in the EU. Indeed, within this group the infection rates in young adults have nearly doubled. Overall, Europe remains one of the few regions in the world in which the number of new infections is increasing.”
These worrying figures illustrate the need for keeping up the momentum in the fight against HIV/AIDS, Andriukaitis said.
“As Commissioner for Health, I am committed to fight HIV/AIDS and I am committed to doing everything in my power to help fight AIDS and to improve the lives of our citizens who suffer from AIDS. I will particularly focus on reaching out to the unreached, breaking down any remaining barriers to prevention and treatment and strengthening the fundamental rights of people living with HIV/AIDS.”
Ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 requires a comprehensive approach that includes social justice, the democratisation of science, gender equity, and a people-centred approach to health, said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on World AIDS Day, as he spotlighted the gap in prevention and treatment that persist among regions and people.
In a message on the Day, marked annually on December 1, Ban said that with about 35 million people worldwide living with HIV – 19 million of who do not even know they have the virus – “tremendous” gains made over the years in fighting the virus remain very fragile.
“The legacy of the AIDS response is already apparent as we confront Ebola in West Africa. We know that medical systems alone are not enough to provide robust health care,” Ban said.
“[These] are all lessons we have learned in the AIDS response that are being applied across the board, including in our discussions on the post-2015 development agenda,” he said.
He also commended the commitment of world leaders this year to end AIDS epidemic by 2030 with a campaign called Fast-Track. A report on that goal released last week outlined a set of targets that would need to be reached by 2020, including 90-90-90: 90 per cent of people living with HIV knowing their HIV status; 90 per cent of people who know their HIV-positive status on treatment; and 90 per cent of people on treatment with suppressed viral loads.
“We must leave no one behind,” Ban said, referring to regions and people who may not have access to prevention, treatment and support services.
(Photo: David Dallaqua)