The headline global figures released for World Aids Day last month suggested that the infection may have peaked worldwide but this is not the case in Europe – especially among younger people.
Offical numbers in Bulgaria rose by 114 to 803 last year – 80% of the new cases were male. But this is the tip of the iceberg. Some 10,000 Bulgarians (out of population of 8 million) are believed to be infected
In Belgium, 1,014 new diagnoses of HIV were made last year. Although there has been a drop in the number of new cases among foreigners in the country, the number of Belgians infected with the HIV virus increased by 20%. Sensoa, an organisation which educates the Belgian public on sexual behaviour, says that monitoring in neighbouring countries suggests nearly 1 in 10 homosexual men in the region carry the virus.
In the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, a campaign featuring adverts on 200 city buses has been launched to try to combat alarmingly high rates of new HIV infections in a region where an estimated 40% of HIV-positive gay or bisexual men do not know they have the virus.
An MTV survey in the UK found that three out of four women aged 16-30 did not practise safe sex during casual relationships. One in three 22-25 year olds said they had had unsafe sex at least 20 times while 86% of 16-18 year olds did not know that unsafe sex could lead to HIV.
According to UNAIDS estimates, around 2.4 million people are living with HIV in Europe and Central Asia. Estimated HIV prevalence (the proportion of adults living with HIV) varies from below 0.1% in parts of Central Europe to above 1% in parts of the former Soviet Union.