Ukraine AIDS epidemic "most severe" in Europe: UN
( AFP ) - Ukraine's AIDS epidemic is the "most severe" in Europe, and is headed towards the general population, not only high-risk groups, UN officials said Friday in Kiev.
Twenty years after the debut of the epidemic in Ukraine, the situation was continuing to deteriorate, UN Special Envoy Lars Kallings said on the eve of World AIDS Day, December 1.
"If the spread of HIV is not stopped in the next three years, I fear that Ukraine will become the first generalised AIDS epidemic in Europe," he said.
During the first 10 months of the year, 14,480 new HIV cases were officially registered among Ukranians, said a statement from the UN.
Officially, 119,000 HIV cases have been registered to date, but the real number has been estimated at 377,600 since the end of 2005, the statement continued.
"That means that less than one-third of all people contaminated are aware that they have the disease," it added.
Nearly 22,000 Ukranians currently have AIDS and more than 12,000 have died, according to official statistics.
The transmission of HIV through the sharing of dirty needles between drugn users is the main cause of the epidemic in the former Soviet republic, the UN reported.
But heterosexual transmission is increasinly frequent, up 20 percent per year, which the UN fears is a sign the disease is making its way into the general population.
The UN noted that 7,000 HIV-positive people were receiving retro-viral treatment in Ukraine.
That had helped slow the rate of people developing full-blown AIDS, with 3,700 new AIDS patients registered during the first 10 months of 2007 against 3,900 during the same period last year.
The UN called on Ukraine to improve its control of treating the disease.