Healthcare Workers 'At Risk' From 1 in 7 Europeans Who Don't Know They Have HIV

November 30, 2016

One in seven of the people in Europe who have HIV or AIDS do not know they have the disease, new figures reveal.

This is according to a new report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which showed that a significant number of people are putting their own health at risk because they have not undergone the simple blood test that can predict their likelihood of developing HIV.

What's more, it means those living with the disease unknowingly are also putting the health of their lovers and children at risk should they exchange bodily fluids, as well as any healthcare workers they come into contact with, especially in the event of a sharps injury occurring while they are being treated.

When the skin is accidentally pierced in this way in the presence of another person's blood, the risk of blood-borne infections spreading is heightened. As a result, medical professionals administering injections to or taking blood from patients need to make sure they are always practising the highest possible standards of sharps safety and needlestick injury prevention with all patients, not just with those known to have HIV.

As the ECDC statistics show, cases of HIV are on the rise, whether people know about it or not, making these high standards of needle safety arguably more important than ever.

In total, almost 30,000 new diagnoses of the potentially life-threatening disease were reported in Europe during 2015, but the number of people in every 100,000 with the virus has decreased markedly from 2006. Ten years ago, 6.6 individuals in every 100,000 had HIV, but this has since fallen to 6.3.

However, the ECDC estimates that approximately 122,000 people throughout Europe are living with the virus unknowingly.

Andrea Ammon, acting director of the ECDC, explained: "ECDC is currently supporting member states to standardise and improve their national estimates regarding the number of people living with HIV.

"This should lead to a more effective HIV response because it enables better targeting of resources at the populations they identify as being most at risk in that country."