AIDS in Eastern Europe

Actually the Scotsman puts it like this: “Enlargement of the European Union in May will bring the world?s fastest-growing area of HIV infection on to the doorstep of the EU, United Nations experts warned today.”

Which pretty much scandalises me: how can you turn a human tragedy into a eurosceptic thing, for gods sake? The problem isn’t either nearer or farther due to the enlargement process: it is simply there. The background to this is that Peter Piot, executive director of UNAids, the UN body with responsibilities for HIV/Aids, has been speaking at the start of a conference today in Dublin, held at the invitation of the Irish EU presidency. Among the preoccupying facts contained in Piot’s speech: as many as one in 100 adults in the eastern European states and their neighbours Ukraine and Russia are infected with HIV , and the numbers are growing fast.

?Of the states who are to join, the Baltic states particularly are affected. Then you have got at the borders Ukraine and Russia, where 1% of all adults are infected.

?What may be more important is that in 10 years? time, the number of people infected with HIV has multiplied by 50. There are now about 1.5 million people living with HIV on the doorstep of the EU.?

Would it be unduly hard-hearted of me to point out that these countries are already facing the most dramatic population crisis in Europe. ‘Sempre plou sobre mullat’ we say in Catalan (it always rains on the wet). Is there nothing we can get right. Couldn’t we try, just this once.

The European Union faces a mounting Aids epidemic on its eastern borders that it is doing little to address, the United Nations warned yesterday.

Peter Piot, executive director of UNAids, the UN body for HIV/Aids, said that while the EU was very active in Aids programmes in Africa, it was paying little attention to the epidemic in eastern Europe and central Asia, where infection rates were growing faster than anywhere else in the world.

He was speaking ahead of a conference today in Dublin, held at the invitation of the Irish EU presidency, which will bring together health ministers from 55 countries in the region to discuss the impact of Aids.

According to UNAids, the number of people infected with HIV in eastern Europe and central Asia has increased from 30,000 in 1995 to 1.5m last year. However, only 7,000 people in the region were receiving Aids drugs, around 9 per cent of those who need them.

Dr Piot said infections in central Asia were still limited to high-risk groups such as drug-users, though in Ukraine there was a risk of the epidemic breaking into the broader society.

In an article for, Dr Piot and Bertie Ahern, the Irish prime minister, warn: “The threat to social stability and security [from the Aids epidemic] will be felt across all of Europe and Asia.”

As the EU expands to take in a number of countries in eastern Europe, Dr Piot said it now had greater responsibility to promote treatment and prevention programmes in the region and to encourage policies such as needle exchanges and treatment for addiction for drug-users.
Source: Financial Times

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

1 thought on “AIDS in Eastern Europe

  1. The question to ber asked is whether AIDS rates are growing because they’re rising from low levels of infection (rapid growth is easy when you’re starting from a low level), or whether they’re growing because the epidemic is out of control. The reports I’ve read suggest it’s more the latter, but still.

    It’s quite possible, if caught early enough, to limit HIV infection rates at the 1% point–the Thai and Senegalese instances are case in point. The problem is getting the political will to intervene, to avoid being distracted. If South Africa had only moved away from apartheid a decade earlier … I’m not concerned for the acceding countries. I am concerned for Ukraine and Russia, though.

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