NGO Baltic HIV Association has analyzed the latest data released by epidemiological surveillance institutions in the Baltics. The latest statistics on HIV/AIDS in the Baltics shows that Latvia has overtaken Estonia in the number of new HIV cases in 2016 thus becoming a “leader” among EU/EEA.
Although the total number of registered HIV cases in Estonia is still higher than in Latvia and Lithuania, tendencies show that this number is slowly decreasing. The opposite situation is in Latvia – the number of annual officially registered new HIV cases is increasing thus reaching 18.5 cases per 100 000 citizens in 2016, which is higher than in Estonia (17.4 cases per 100 000 citizens). Situation in Lithuania is still relatively good – 7.4 cases per 100 000 citizens.
“This is the first year when we have overtaken Estonia in the number of new HIV cases. This is a very serious signal to the whole Latvian health care system reflecting the acute need for involvement of institutions of all levels to solve the problem – it is necessary to inform and educate citizens, as well as encourage them to check their HIV status, but for those who are infected – provide antiretroviral therapy. Early diagnosis of HIV causes less harm to the infected person, his /her partner and the society in general. We have to break stereotypes on HIV issues mainly making people think “HIV does not reflect to me”, we have to involve general practitioners in HIV diagnosis the way Estonians have done it, otherwise we won’t be able to restrict the spread of HIV in the country”, says Inga Upmace, Chairman of the Board of Baltic HIV Association.
In accordance with the data released by The Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (CDPC) of Latvia, as of January 1, 2017 there are 6972 HIV infected persons, 365 of them – diagnosed on previous year, which means that each day one person in Latvia becomes aware of his/her positive HIV status. In most of the cases transmission ways of the infection are sexual contacts – 38% of them – heterosexual, 6.6% – homosexual.
Majority of the new registered HIV cases in Latvia affect people at the age 30 – 39, but in general HIV affects people at all age groups – newborns, as well as people after 55. Although two-thirds of the infected are men, a rising problem is newborns affected by their mothers; there are more than 70 cases in the country and 6 of them – registered only during the last year. Prevalence of HIV by drug users during injections started to decrease already on 2008, and made only 17% of all new cases on 2016. This clearly shows that preventive measures started almost 20 years ago have been successful.
NGO Baltic HIV Association following the good practice of Estonia invites and encourages everyone who is in doubt about their health, to make a HIV test during the visit of general practitioners or in any of 16 preventive cabinets in Latvia (for more information: www.spkc.gov.lv) where HIV tests and consultations are free of charge, including NGO’s Checkpoint (Testpunkts) at Stabu str. 19, k2 in Riga, which is open every Tuesday and Wednesday from 6 – 8 p.m. For more information – www.testpunkts.lv.