HIV continues to be on the rise in Eastern Europe. Rates of HIV have increased in Eastern European countries such as Ukraine and Belarus, with a 29% increase in annual new HIV infections between 2010 and 2018.

The highest rates of HIV diagnoses (>20.0) were observed in Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova.

In 2019, c.76% of AIDS cases diagnosed in Europe were in the East, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

According to data published by ECDC and the WHO/Europe, more than 136,000 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in 2019 – roughly 80% in the eastern part of the European Region. Every second HIV diagnosis (53%) happens at a late stage of the infection, when the immune system has already started to fail.

Despite the general EU/EEA-wide decline, an increase has been reported in the rate of AIDS diagnoses since 2009 in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.

Political, legal and technical barriers in many national HIV programmes are delaying the use of new, innovative approaches and tools, such as self-testing and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

Why is this relevant for us in Wales?

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen the temptation to focus on one’s own backyard, isolate oneself from the rest of the world, and believe one is safe and protected.

We know now that this protection is an illusion. Regardless of the protections we erect in our own countries, allowing public health crises to persist in other parts of the world threatens our own progress and safety.

“Despite the focus on COVID-19 right now, we must not lose sight of other public health issues like HIV. Earlier diagnosis of HIV is an urgent priority”.