Former Soviet states had the largest number of new HIV infections last year in the European region, mainly due to shared drug needles, according to an EU report.
The ex-Soviet countries reported 59,866 new cases of HIV, or 210.8 infections per million people, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said.
That was more than all the new cases in Western and Central Europe combined.
For the purposes of the report Eastern Europe was defined specifically as the 15 countries of the former Soviet Union – including those technically in Asia, with Central Europe effectively those non-Soviet nations once considered part of Eastern Europe.
“Although this rate is lower than the epidemic peak observed in 2001, the number of reported new HIV … diagnoses has increased in recent years,” the EU agency said.
“Over a quarter of the new HIV diagnoses were among young people aged 15-24 years and 41% of the cases were reported amongst females.”
Earlier this week, the United Nations reduced its estimates of how many people globally were infected with HIV from nearly 40 million to 33 million, mainly due to revised figures for India.
The agency also said the evidence showed the epidemic was creeping back in countries that had become less vigilant – mainly industrialised nations where many people with AIDS had access to drugs that could extend their lives.
In the EU study, Western Europe reported 25,241 new HIV cases, a rate of 82.5 infections per million, while Central European countries had 1,805 HIV cases, or 9.4 infections per million.
Heterosexual contact was the main driver of transmission in those areas.
The agency also estimated about 30% of people living with HIV in Europe were unaware they were infected.
“It is anticipated that higher testing rates across Europe will link more HIV infected people to prevention and treatment services,” the study said.