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Monday 24th October 2016

Call for earlier HIV testing

27th November 2007

The problem of late diagnosis of HIV and AIDS is worsening across Europe and in Central Asian countries, and earlier testing for HIV is needed, a key conference of international AIDS experts says.


More than 300 European patients, policy-makers and medical professionals attending a conference in Brussels said too many people were coming into healthcare systems with HIV that was too far advanced to be treated effectively.

The World Health Organisation's (WHO's) European region saw 86,912 new infections in 2006, and delegates to the meeting were considering pushing to extend testing from high-risk groups to the wider population in those countries, much in the manner of pre-emptive testing for cervical cancer and breast cancer.

The impact of late HIV diagnosis on individuals and healthcare was an urgent problem for which action was now needed, according to an opening speech by EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou.

Attention seemed to have slid away from HIV/AIDS in recent years, and the influence of the AIDS campaigns of the 1980s had now waned, he said, allowing AIDS to become 'the forgotten disease'.

Around half of patients who contract HIV in the region enter treatment too late, and the situation has been the same for about a decade, one expert said.

Professor Jens Lundgren of the Copenhagen HIV Programme said there was a still reluctance to go out and do widespread testing, and many lives were being wasted as a result.

Around 30-40% of patients have already developed AIDS by the time they enter health systems in Europe and Central Asia, and no country had been able to deal with the disease effectively, he added.

The conference was considering calling for testing of at-risk groups including men who have sex with men and drug-users every five years, and possibly testing supposedly low-risk groups more widely, too.

For example, patients presenting with some diseases traditionally associated with HIV, like tuberculosis or some skin conditions, should be referred for HIV testing.

Care providers should take a more active role, so as to avoid the much higher costs associated with caring for someone who already has AIDS, Lundgren said.

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