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Cent Eur J Public Health. 2006 Jun;14(2):55-8.

HIV/AIDS in eastern Europe: more than a sexual health crisis.

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  • 1Sexually Transmitted Infections HIV/AIDS Programme, WHO Regional Office for Europe, Copenhagen, Denmark.


HIV/AIDS is often described as a sexually transmitted disease. In the former USSR, however, the HIV/AIDS epidemic is being driven by injecting drug use among men. This article addresses several widely circulated assumptions about HIV in eastern Europe: that sexual contact is the primary mode of transmission, that women form a major increasing proportion of those infected, and that the disease threatens young people in particular. Because the rate of injecting drug use is extremely high in many eastern European countries, HIV control there cannot just target sexual transmission but must embrace other approaches, such as comprehensive harm reduction. In the area of treatment, scaling up access to highly active antiretroviral therapy has been a major global priority for the last two years. European efforts to broaden access have been generally quite successful, yet in the two European countries with the greatest need, the Russian Federation and Ukraine, the demand for treatment is growing much faster than its availability.

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