|Epidemiological Fact Sheet on HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections: Latvia (UNAIDS, 2000, 12 p.)|
The general trends in the spread of HIV/AIDS, noted in the European region, are also evident in Latvia. The HIV/AIDS epidemic in both Western and Eastern Europe has reached a significant turning point in the sense that, on the one hand, beginning in 1995, many Western European countries have witnesses a continuous decline in the number of new AIDS cases. The transmission of HIV through blood transfusions and other medical procedures ahs been arrested, and the HIV transmission among male homosexuals and even among IDUs has been effectively reduced. The above positive trend in the dynamics of the HIV/AIDS spread in Western Europe have been achieved through the successful implementation of prevention programmes and by applying new antiviral medicinal products in HIV treatment.
On the other hand, in 1996 - 1997 regional exacerbation of the HIV infection started in Eastern Europe - Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine among IDUs, resulting in a rapid increase in the number of cases of infection in these countries. The comparatively widespread incidence of STIs in various groups of the population, coupled with the HIV infection among IDUs, facilitated the swift spread of HIV also in other Central and Eastern European countries, including Latvia.
The first case of HIV infection in Latvia was registered in 1987, while the first case of AIDS was detected in 1990. During the period from 1987 until the end of 1997, HIV in Latvia was transmitted solely through sexual contacts, mostly among male homosexuals. The incidence of the infection and its annual increase in the country was very low, and the total number of HIV infected individuals was 88.
In November and December of 1997, the first five HIV infected IDUs were registered. In 1998, the numbers of such individuals grew rapidly, reaching 122 in December, among then 31 women, 6 of whom were pregnant.
The tendency of the number of HIV infected young people aged 15-20 to grow gives rise to concern, as it constitutes already 15% of all registered HIV cases.
As of 1 January 1999, there were 492 HIV positive persons. 77% of newly confirmed HIV cases in 1999 are among drug users.
In Latvia, voluntary HIV testing is open for everyone in the country and is free of charge. Access to testing and treatment are free of charge.
Taking into account the persistently high rates of STD morbidity in various population groups, as well as the growing number of IDUs, the increase in the spread of HIV infection in Latvia is expected to progress much more rapidly specifically, in the most vulnerable high-risk groups which include, youths, IDUs, prisoners, male homosexuals, prostitutes etc.