The Joint Action on HIV and Co-infection Prevention and Harm Reduction (HA-REACT) has come to its end on 31 January 2019. HA-REACT had 22 partners, representing 18 EU Member States, with additional expertise provided by 14 collaborating partners, including the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) who, through their work, have shown how funding and national policies affect harm reduction programmes.
HA-REACT was co-funded by the EU Health Programme.
The European-wide project had the ambitious objectives of ending new HIV cases and reducing HCV and tuberculosis (TB) transmission among people who inject drugs (PWID) in the EU by 2020 and focused on three EU countries (Hungary, Latvia and Lithuania) specifically. Through a range of activities ranging from HIV and HCV rapid testing trainings, to a condom vending machine pilot project in a Czech prison, and a mobile unit offering harm reduction services for people who inject drugs in Riga, HA-REACT demonstrated the European Commission’s commitment to harm reduction, and the many challenges associated with such services.
Every second person diagnosed with HIV has already reached an advanced stage in the infection – which is one reason for a persistent HIV epidemic in Europe This shows that reaching and testing those at risk of infection with HIV is still a public health challenge across Europe.
With nearly 160,000 people newly diagnosed with HIV, 2017 marked another year of alarming numbers of new HIV diagnoses in the WHO European Region. Encouragingly, the overall increasing trend is not as steep as before. The eastern part of the Region recorded over 130 000 new HIV diagnoses, the highest number ever. In contrast, the European Union and European Economic Area (EU/EEA) countries reported a decline in rates of new diagnoses, mainly driven by a 20% decrease since 2015 among men who have sex with men.
Source: World AIDS Day 2018: Know the epidemic, shape the response
The EU has published a staff working document on combatting HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis B and C and tuberculosis in the European Union and neighbouring countries.
These diseases pose the greatest risk to populations that are often also socially marginalised, such as prisoners, injecting drug users, homeless people, migrants and the poor and groups potentially subject to social stigma like men who have sex with men (MSM). Exacerbated social conditions make it even harder to reach out to these groups, necessitating specific tailored measures to ensure that prevention and medical care efforts are effective.
The staff working document takes stock of the EU support to Member States across several policy areas: public health, research, drugs policy, development cooperation, accession and neighbourhood policy, European structural funds, etc. It also presents EU-funded good practices related to early diagnosis, encouragement of testing, wider outreach to vulnerable groups, integrated care across the diseases, rapid linkage to care, treatment as prevention, health promotion and support to networks and civil society organisations.
To read more about this on the European Commission website go to: https://ec.europa.eu/health/sites/health/files/communicable_diseases/docs/swd_2018_387_en.pdf
Based on data reported to ECDC between 2004 and 2015, 312 501 new HIV diagnoses were reported in younger adults (15 to 49 years of age) in the EU/EEA, resulting in an average reported incidence of new diagnoses of 11.4 per 100 000 population. During this 12-year period, 54 102 cases were reported among older adults aged over 50 years translating into 2.6 per 100 000 population. The rate of newly reported cases increased by 2% each year among older adults since 2004, when 3 132 diagnoses were notified in this age group. By 2015, around every one in six (17%) of newly diagnosed HIV in Europe were among people aged over 50, accounting for 5076 reported cases.
To read more about HIV diagnoses among people over 50 go to the ECDC website: https://ecdc.europa.eu/en/news-events/ecdc-study-nearly-one-six-new-hiv-diagnoses-europe-are-among-people-over-50
The World Health Organization (WHO) HIV drug resistance report 2017 shows that of the 36.7 million people living with HIV worldwide, 19.5 million people were accessing anti-retroviral therapy in 2016. The majority of these people are doing well, with treatment proving highly effective in suppressing the HIV virus. But a growing number are experiencing the consequences of drug resistance. In 6 of the 11 countries surveyed in Africa, Asia and Latin America, over 10% of people starting antiretroviral therapy had a strain of HIV that was resistant to some of the most widely used HIV medicines.
The Organization warns that this growing threat could undermine global progress in treating and preventing HIV infection if early and effective action is not taken.
There have been no HIV or Hepatitis infections from blood transfusions in the last 10 years in Italy.
More than three million transfusions of blood components were made in 2015, with 1709 positive cases of HIV or Hepatitis detected in 1691 donors, who were therefore disqualified from giving blood. This screening system ensures the safety of receiving blood and its components.
To read more (in Italian) about safe blood transfusions on the salute.gov.it website
The UN European coalition on health is a coordination mechanism focusing on the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 – to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages – in the pan-European Region, and of the health-related targets present in other SDGs.
At its initial meeting in 2016 the coalition identified four key workstreams to focus on:
- health throughout the life-course, with a focus on maternal and child health (contributing to SDG 3, 4, 5, 16);
- communicable diseases, with a focus on HIV and tuberculosis (contributing to SDG 3, 1, 6);
- universal health coverage, with a focus on medicines (contributing to SDG 3, 1, 5);
- migration, including aspects of emergencies (contributing to SDG 3, 1, 10, 11, 13).
For more information about the UN European coalition on health on the euro.who.int website
There are 53 countries in the WHO European Region and within those countries there are 15 million people living with hepatitis C and 13.3 million people living with hepatitis B, the vast majority of whom are unaware of their infection and therefore at risk of developing cirrhosis or liver cancer. On average, fewer than 3% of patients with chronic hepatitis C receive treatment. In addition, there are 2.5 million people living with HIV, almost half of whom are unaware of their infection.
Safe and effective treatments exist that allow people living with HIV and/or viral hepatitis B to lead healthy and long lives. Those living with hepatitis C can be cured. Knowing your health status, however, is the prerequisite to accessing treatment and the WHO strongly supports the European HIV-Hepatitis initiative which aims to break the silence around HIV and viral hepatitis and build momentum to stop these epidemics by 2030.
Read more about HIV and Hepatitis in Europe on the euro.who.int website
The cumulative number of HIV cases in the WHO European Region has risen to a new high of more than 2 million, with 153,000 new HIV cases identified in 2015 – a 7% increase compared to the previous year and the highest annual number since reporting began in the 1980s.
A new report “HIV/AIDS surveillance in Europe 2015“, also states that 1 in 7 people living with HIV in the European Economic Area (122,000 people) are unaware of their condition.
The main transmission mode also varied by geographical area. HIV infections increased consistently among men who have sex with men in the western and central parts of the Region, while in the eastern part heterosexual transmission increased. Transmission through injecting drug use still accounted for one third of new cases in eastern European countries.
For more information about HIV/AIDS in Europe from the euro.who.int website