European AIDS Group Warns of High AIDS-Related Death Rate in Eastern Europe, Urges Equal Access to Treatment
October 30, 2003
Eastern Europe's AIDS-related death rate will continue to "spira[l]" unless HIV-positive individuals in the region receive the same level of access to treatment as patients in Western European countries, according to a European AIDS Clinical Society statement released at the end of a five-day conference, Agence France-Presse reports. The conference, which included approximately 2,500 delegates from 51 countries, was held six months before the European Union is scheduled to admit eight countries from the former communist region, according to Agence France-Presse. According to the statement, HIV/AIDS is "most rampant" beyond the European Union's borders; approximately 1.2 million of the two million HIV-positive people on the European continent live in Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet countries, according to Agence France-Presse. "These countries will be confronted with a high death rate in 10 years if the now HIV-infected patients don't get access to treatment which is standardized in Western Europe," according to the EACS statement. Andrzej Horban, a Polish physician who attended the conference, said that people are leaving Eastern Europe for western countries in order to gain access to treatment that is unavailable in their areas, according to Agence France-Presse. Conference Chair Christine Katlama, a professor at Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital in Paris, said, "In this part of the European continent the situation is sometimes worse than in Africa, where the number of infections is tragic, but at least they are starting to do something," adding that early treatment of HIV could stem the "outbreak of AIDS for decades." She also called on governments not to become "complacent" about the epidemic because of declining HIV incidence, according to Agence France-Presse. She said, "This would lead to the fact that people at high ... risk feel safe, drop their guard and seek treatment too late" (Khadige, Agence France-Presse, 10/29).
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