Disease: World AIDS Conference: Millions of infected people without treatment

Millions of people live with the virus, hundreds of thousands die from it every year: Even if the dangers of an HIV infection are talked about much less than before, they are far from being averted.

Disease: World AIDS Conference: Millions of infected people without treatment

Millions of people live with the virus, hundreds of thousands die from it every year: Even if the dangers of an HIV infection are talked about much less than before, they are far from being averted. This year, Munich will be the meeting point for the world's largest scientific meeting on the subject of HIV. More than 15,000 participants are expected at the World AIDS Conference “AIDS 2024” from July 22nd to 26th.

At the invitation of the International Aids Society (IAS), scientists, doctors, health experts and activists from more than 175 countries want to discuss ways to better contain the HIV virus and the resulting immunodeficiency syndrome AIDS.

Current infection numbers

The number of infections is rising again, especially in Eastern Europe; in Africa they remain high. Around two thirds of all global infections are registered in Africa, says Christoph Spinner from the Rechts der Isar University Hospital in Munich, who is chairing the local congress.

According to data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), around 1,900 people in Germany were estimated to have been infected with HIV in 2022, and around 1,800 in 2021. According to Spinner, around 40 million people worldwide live with the virus, and around 9.2 million have no or none adequate access to therapy. Only half of children with HIV receive life-saving medication. Around 630,000 people died from AIDS-related causes in 2022.

These are deaths that could be avoided: There are now good treatment options, explains Spinner. “Thanks to modern therapy, people with HIV can lead normal lives and age healthily,” he says. "Successful HIV therapy suppresses virus replication and thus also prevents the potential transmission of an HIV infection." Those affected could then work in all professions - including healthcare.

HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis is important

However, the drugs are not available everywhere, especially in poorer countries. More information is also needed about preventative medications, HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), says Spinner. The RKI also points this out. It has registered a decline in infections among men who have sex with men for years.

The RKI concludes that the fact that there was no new increase in 2022 after contact options were limited due to Corona could be due to increased use of PrEP. There is a need to catch up among sex workers, intravenous drug users and heterosexuals who often change partners.

In the last two groups in particular, there was no noticeable decline in new infections; in fact, the numbers increased slightly. These groups need to be specifically informed about PrEP, says Spinner.

Because unknowing sharing remains a problem. Even in Germany, around one in ten affected people currently does not know anything about their HIV infection - with the risk of passing the virus on again and again, explains Spinner. "HIV is primarily transmitted by people whose HIV infection has not yet been diagnosed." In addition, mortality is higher with late diagnoses.

The first World AIDS Conference took place in 1985. “AIDS 2026” is supposed to take place in Latin America.

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