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HIV Transmission in Europe Occurs Primarily in Vacation Destinations, Study Finds

May 21, 2009

HIV in Europe is transmitted primarily in vacation destinations, according to a study published recently in the journal Retrovirology, the PA/ reports. For the study, researchers led by Dimitrios Paraskevis of the University of Athens analyzed samples of HIV-1 subtype B virus, the most prevalent form of HIV in Europe, from 16 European countries and Israel (PA/, 5/20). The researchers created a family tree of the virus and examined its genetic characteristics to determine how it has evolved.

The study found that tourists are more likely to contract HIV in Greece, Portugal, Serbia and Spain, which are popular vacation destinations. Meanwhile, HIV-positive people in Austria, Belgium, Denmark and Luxembourg are more likely to have contracted the virus outside of these countries. The study also found that HIV-positive people in Israel, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom contract the virus both within these countries and in other countries. In addition, the study found that in Poland the virus spread mainly among residents through injection drug use.

"Viruses move around with travelers -- thus health programs within countries should not only target the national populations, prevention efforts must also be aimed at migrants, travelers and tourists -- who are both major sources and targets of HIV," Paraskevis said (BBC News, 5/20). Lisa Power, head of policy at the Terrence Higgins Trust, said that the findings are not a "surprise," adding, "We've known for some time with high levels of mobility in the world these days that it's very easy for viruses to move around. What it tells us is that you can't limit HIV prevention and support just to permanent residents" (PA/, 5/20).

Online The study is available online.

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