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HIV infection rate slows in Estonia

There were 290 new cases of HIV in Estonia diagnosed in 2014, according to the Estonian Health Board, which is a 11-percent decline in new cases (325) from the year before. However, the percentage of infected citizens to the size of the populace still makes Estonia's HIV rate one of the highest in Europe.

The Health Board says that 8,992 people in Estonia have been infected with HIV, while 432 of those have been diagnosed with AIDS. Finland, by comparison, has about 3,000 cases of HIV with more than 5.4 times the population.

New HIV infections are primarily clustered in two locations. Tallinn had 138 new cases in 2014, while the city of Narva had 59. That means that Tallinn, with a population of roughly 434,000, had a new infection rate of 32 people per 100,000, while Narva, with a population of roughly 59,000, has a rate approaching 101 people per 100,000.

Ida-Virumaa county, not including Narva, had 62 new cases in 2014. If Narva is included in figure, the county, which makes up 11 percent of the national population, accounts for more than 40 percent of all new infections in Estonia.

New infections in most countries in the West have been due to sexual transmission, primarily between homosexual males. In Estonia, as well as Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the majority are due to drug use, such as heroin users that exchange needles between them.

“In China and India for example, injecting drug users have easily 100 times the rate of new cases,” Dr. Kristi Rüütel, a manager at the Infectious Disease and Drug-Monitoring Center of Estonia's Institute for Health Development, told ERR News.

“There is a jump [in Estonia] in the number of new infections between sexual partners, but there is usually a drug component involved,” Rüütel said. “In terms of same sex transmission between men - there have been a couple of cases, but we have very limited data, and our numbers are probably underreported.”

Editor: S. Abel, M. Kuul

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