New cases of HIV rose in Germany this year with health officials saying that drug cocktails to fight the disease are contributing to the increase.
HIV awareness is declining, officials say
The number of new HIV infections in Germany rose 20 percent in the first six months of this year over the same period in 2004, and government officials are worried that drugs that fight HIV/AIDS have led to underestimation of the disease.
"The German health minister considers this a serious development and says the rise in HIV infections is worrying," health ministry spokeswoman Dagmar Reitenbach told reporters. "Unfortunately, it is often the case that HIV/AIDS is no longer taken seriously as a life-threatening disease."
According to a report from the Robert Koch Institute, the federal government's disease control center, 1,164 people were infected in the first half of 2005 with the virus. The institute said the HIV risk for males was roughly 7.5 times greater than for women and that most of the new infections were in males between the ages of 25 and 45. German cities such as Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne and Frankfurt have the highest risk of new infection, the report said.
Gays' HIV risk climbing
About 40 million people worldwide are infected with HIV/AIDS, and Africa is the hardest hit region with 25 million. In the EU, infections are on the rise. In Germany, the infection rate was stable for years, remaining under 2,000 annually in a population of 82 million. But in 2004, the infection rate topped 2,000.
Drug advances appear to cause people to be less concerned about HIV/AIDS
Woman make up about half of the number of the infected worldwide. The most significant HIV risk factor for women in Germany is sexual contact with males from other high-risk groups: men from countries with a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, intravenous drug users and men who have had homosexual contact.
Almost 60 percent of the new infections were among homosexual men, and the risk of infection among this group is almost twice as high as it was 12 years ago.
The head of the Robert Koch Institute, Reinhard Kurth, said the news was worrying and that more attempts needed to be made to communicate to the populace that AIDS, despite improved therapies, is still an incurable disease. He added that the new drug cocktails, that have proven effective in treating the symptoms of AIDS, have led to many taking the consequences of infection less seriously.
"More efforts must be made to explain and inform people that despite an improvement in therapy, there is no cure for this disease," he said in a statement.