New HIV diagnoses in Germany soar by 20%

Edwin J. Bernard
Published: 07 October 2005

Diagnoses of new HIV infections in Germany rose by 20% in the first half of 2005 compared with the first half of 2004, according to the latest figures from the Robert Koch Institute, Germany's centre for public health and disease control. Gay and bisexual men accounted for almost 60% of these new HIV diagnoses, a 30% rise from four years ago.

With a population of 82.5 million, Germany is Europe's most populous nation. Historically, HIV prevention has been relatively successful and new HIV diagnoses have tended to total under 2,000 each year for the past decade. Even though in 2004 new HIV diagnoses totalled 2,058 - the highest since 1997 - this compares with 7,000 new HIV diagnoses in 2003 in the United Kingdom, the third most populous country in Europe with around 60 million inhabitants.

However, in the first six months of 2005 the Robert Koch Institute reports that there have already been 1,164 new HIV diagnoses, suggesting that new HIV infections are on the increase in Germany after years of stability. However, the Institute points out that new HIV diagnoses and new HIV infections are not necessarily the same thing, and it is unable to provide accurate figures on new HIV infections.

Gay and bisexual men make up the vast majority of new HIV diagnoses. In the first half of 2005, a total of 568 (48.8%) of new HIV diagnoses were made in gay and bisexual men. However, when the Institute apportioned 48.8% of the 189 demographically undetermined new HIV diagnoses to the gay and bisexual men's total, this resulted in a total of 660, or 57% of new HIV diagnoses. In contrast, in the UK in 2003, a total of 26% of new HIV diagnoses were in gay and bisexual men, although they remain the group most at risk of acquiring HIV within the UK.

Last year, using similar calculations, gay and bisexual men made up almost 56% of the total new HIV diagnoses, which suggests only a slight year-on-year increase. However, the Institute reports that four years ago, the percentage of gay and bisexual men testing HIV-positive for the first time was 44%, resulting in a 30% increase between 2001 and 2005.

Heterosexual women and men born in high prevalence countries, such as those in Africa, make up the next highest demographic of those testing HIV-positive for the first time: 68% were women. In the first half of 2005, 174 (14.9%) of new HIV diagnoses were attributed to people from this group. However, 169 (14.5%) of heterosexual men and women born in Germany were also diagnosed with HIV for the first time in the first half of 2005: 58% were men.

The Institute also reports on the cities with the highest HIV incidence rates between July 2004 and June 2005. Cologne, with an incidence rate of 12.42 per 100,000 population had the highest rate. However, the highest absolute numbers were seen in Germany's two biggest cities, Berlin and Hamburg, which had incidence rates of 10 per 100,000 and 9.57 per 100,000, respectively. Other cities with high HIV incidence included Munich, Frankfurt and Düsseldorf.

Reuters reports that Germany's health ministry spokeswoman, Dagmar Reitenbach, told a government news conference: "The German health minister considers this a serious development and says the rise in HIV infections is worrying. Unfortunately, it is often the case that HIV/AIDS is no longer taken seriously as a life-threatening disease."

The full report (in German) can be downloaded as a pdf file from the Robert Koch Institute website.

Reference

Robert Koch Institut. HIV-Infektionen und AIDS-Erkrankungen in Deutschland. Epidemiologishes Bulletin Sonderausgabe B, 30 September 2005.

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