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Europe Becoming Complacent over HIV Prevention

August 9, 2002

Rising levels of gonorrhea and syphilis across western Europe since 1995 imply that complacency over HIV prevention efforts may have set in among individuals and some governments, argue researchers in the British Medical Journal ("Are Trends in HIV, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis Worsening in Western Europe?" 2002;324:1324-7).

In examining national trends in diagnosed HIV infections, gonorrhea, and infectious syphilis from 1995 to 2000, Angus Nicoll and Francoise Hamers found that new diagnoses of sexually acquired HIV infections increased by 20 percent in western Europe. Rates of gonorrhea increased in France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, while outbreaks of syphilis have recently been reported in several countries, especially among men who have sex with men, including men already infected with HIV.

These preliminary data show that sexual health has deteriorated in parts of western Europe in recent years, according to the authors. Increasing numbers of people are living with HIV; levels of STDs that facilitate HIV transmission are rising; and sexual behavior is getting riskier, leading to fears of increasing HIV transmission.

AIDS campaigns from the late 1980s and early 1990s seem to have been forgotten, and efforts to prevent HIV transmission need to be strengthened, they said. In addition to prevention measures, consistent surveillance needs to be established across Europe to monitor trends in key STDs, resistance of gonorrhea, and likely incidence of HIV transmission.

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