WHO Report: Estonia Could Have More HIV Positive Citizens Than Previously Believed (2)
In the end of 2013, 8,702 people had been diagnosed with the HIV virus in Estonia and undiagnosed cases were estimated to number around 1,000. WHO's report published Wednesday argues that the latter could actually be closer to 5,500.
The evaluation report on HIV/AIDS treament and care in Estonia says that HIV can be considered an epidemic among specific most-at-risk subpopulations, mainly people who inject drugs, their sexual partners, commercial sex workers and gay men. These risk groups are hard to reach and they therefore seldom receive a diagnosis.
The report estimates the number of people living with undiagnosed HIV to be around 5,500. Whereas previous analysis suggested the total of HIV positives in Estonia to be around 9,000-10,000, this places the tally closer to 13,500.
HIV was first diagnosed in Estonia in 1988. The annual number of new cases peaked in 2001 but has been gradually decreasing ever since, from 1,474 in 2001 to 325 in 2013. From 2000-2010 almost 70 percent of all new HIV cases were diagnosed among men, but the percentage of infected women has risen to 40 percent in recent years.
Infections tend to be clustered in the Estonian capital and Ida-Viru County, driven primarily by shared needles among drug users and unprotected sex with infected partners.
Anna-Liisa Pääsukene from the Ministry of Social Affairs said that all HIV/AIDS centered public activities are set out by the National Health Plan 2009-2020, which includes strategies for increasing pubic awareness of HIV/AIDS, HIV testing, cure and monitoring.
General awareness is raised by public campaigns and a dedicated website www.hiv.ee; the National Institute for Health Development (TAI) offers seminars to train people providing HIV/AIDS-related services and healthcare.
HIV-tests are primarily done by anonymous counselling and testing centers, and special youth counselling centers. TAI also organizes regular events providing quick anonymous testing in shopping centers and clubs for example.
The government provides free drugs for all HIV positive individual, including those who do not have health insurance.