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Estonia Unveils Plan to Cut EU's Highest Per Capita HIV Rate

December 8, 2005

On World AIDS Day, Estonia revealed its plan to slash new HIV infections from the current level of 55 per 100,000 people — the highest rate in Europe -- to 20 per 100,000 by 2015. According to experts, the country of 1.4 million is in the "worst position in the world, outside Africa" in terms of HIV infections. "The infection of people with HIV is out of control in Estonia," said Maarike Harro, director of the National Institute for Health Development (NIHD).

In the first 10 months of 2005, Estonia registered 569 new HIV cases -- 60 percent of whom were under age 25 -- bringing the total number of HIV-positive Estonians to more than 5,000. During that same period, 19 people were diagnosed with AIDS, for a total of 89.

At the turn of the century, Estonia was almost HIV-free. But in the autumn of 2000, the Baltic state saw a sudden upsurge in cases among drug addicts in Narva, a city to the northeast that borders Russia and is home to a large ethnic Russian population. HIV spread quickly via IV drug users sharing needles, and many then passed it on through unprotected sex with their partners.

"The virus keeps spreading among intravenous drug addicts but more new HIV cases are registered also among their sexual partners," said Kristi Ruutel, an HIV/AIDS expert at NIHD. "These two are the main risk groups we are trying to focus on at present."

To control HIV's spread, Estonia will sharply increase its funding for the disease from $4.2 million this year to $30 million by 2009, said Social Affairs Minister Jaak Aab.

Back to other news for December 8, 2005

Adapted from:
Agence France Presse

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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