Number of HIV infections shows upward trend
Women’s infections are increasingly often sexually transmitted
In 2009, the number of new HIV infections has been higher than that in the entire previous year. By the end of November a total of 150 persons had been tested positive for HIV, while in 2008 there were 148 infections.
In some previous years there was a statistical peak of almost 200 infections. In the early years of the current millenium the number of infections recorded annually remained around 130.
Henrikki Brummer-Korvenkontio, a special researcher at the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), estimates that the total number of infections diagnosed in 2009 will be approximately 160.
Most HIV infections are sexually transmitted. However, the method of transmission is not known yet in all cases this year, but traditionally sex has been the main source of infection.
In 2008, more than two-thirds of infections were sexually transmitted, and previously the proportion was even higher.
”The number of sexually transmitted infections has been rising over the entire decade”, notes Brummer-Korvenkontio. ”Men and women have been equally affected”, he adds.
The HIV infection rate begun to increase among homosexual men both in Finland and elsewhere a few years ago. The infection could easily be prevented by using a condom but for some reason this fact has had no effect on people’s behaviour.
”A more explicit method to prevent infections would be required”, Brummer-Korvenkontio contemplates. ”What would be the right way?” he asks.
The HIV infection rate among intravenous drug users has declined appreciably, even though hundreds of HIV infections among narcotics users continue to be found for example across the Gulf of Finland in Estonia every year.
Finns who test positive for HIV are typically homosexual men rather than heterosexual men and women or homosexual women.
However, the figures are becoming more and more even: Last year, 42 of the 107 sexually-transmitted HIV infections occurred between gay men, 34 between men and women, and 30 from one woman to another.
A few years ago, the number of woman-to-woman transmissions was higher than that between men and women.
In 2009, women’s infections have been clearly more frequent than in previous years. By the end of November, the number of women’s infections was 55, while the figure for the entire previous year remained at 44.
Previously the number of infections has often been below 50 per year.
”Today the medical treatment of HIV is good and effective. However, the fact may be associated with the wrong illusion that the medical treatment could cure the disease”, Brummer-Korvenkontio points out.
Medicines prevent HIV infection from progressing to AIDS, and thanks to them even in Finland HIV-positive individuals do not die from AIDS very often. In fact, it is possible for a HIV-positive person to live for many decades.
The good progress on the treatment front may have created a certain indifference:”When the number of infections is low, the risk of HIV transmission can seem remote”, Brummer-Korvenkontio reflects.
The medication is started when a person has been tested positive for HIV.
The tests currently in use can detect antibodies three months after the possible transmission. Unfortunately, taking an HIV test anonymously is not possible in all Finnish municipalities, a survey conducted by the Finnish AIDS Council indicates.
Today - December 1st - is World AIDS Day.
Previously in HS International Edition:
HIV infection rate in Finland remains at record high level (11.2.2008)
Sexually-transmitted HIV infections on the rise (5.9.2006)
The National Institute for Health and Welfare
Finnish AIDS Council
World Aids Day (Wikipedia)