Up to six times fewer HIV diagnoses in European women than men

28 Nov 2019

Image: © salomonus_/Stock.adobe.com

In central Europe, there were six times fewer HIV diagnoses among women than men in 2018.

European women – particularly those in their 40s – are up to three times more likely to be diagnosed late with HIV when their immune systems are already starting to fail. That is one of a number of findings in a report published today (28 November) by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) regional office for Europe.

Overall, it found that more than half (54pc) of women of all ages are diagnosed late, accounting for just one-third of the 141,000 total new diagnoses in Europe last year.

Late diagnosis is one of the biggest contributors to the spread of HIV across Europe. It has been attributed to low testing coverage and uptake on the continent, and the fact that its seriousness is not being addressed in older populations.

60pc of the HIV diagnoses among women in 2018 were those aged between 30 and 49, with heterosexual sex being the most common means of transmission in 92pc of cases.

A graph showing HIV diagnoses among women and men in Europe.

Click on the image for a larger version. Image: ECDC

Among the more startling figures was that countries in central Europe reported six times fewer diagnoses among women compared with men.

Across the EU and European Economic Area as a whole, it amounted to three times fewer diagnoses for women compared with men. The only exception was found in eastern Europe, where there was a more even distribution between genders.

“We do not know why, but it seems current systems and testing efforts in Europe are failing women and older adults,” said ECDC director Dr Andrea Ammon.

Dr Piroska Östlin, WHO’s interim regional director for Europe, added: “Late diagnosis in women indicates that gender-sensitive counselling and testing, including information about sexual health, is not reaching this population.

“It’s time to end the silence about sexual health, especially when it comes to HIV, and ensure that women are well informed and enabled to protect themselves.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic