HIV Infections on the Rise Again After COVID-19
It is easy to forget about certain health concerns when a global pandemic takes center stage, but new data on HIV infections in Italy suggests that the virus is still a serious threat. Despite a decade of decreasing trends, 2021 and 2022 have seen a new increase in HIV incidence, according to the latest update of national surveillance data.
The Italian Institute of Health (ISS) report suggests that there has been a 34% increase in new HIV diagnoses over the past two years. However, the incidence in Italy is lower than the average observed among the European Union states, which is a small silver lining amid concerning data.
One troubling trend highlighted in the report is the continuous increase in new diagnoses in people over 50 years of age, from 20% in 2015 to 31% in 2022. Over half of the people diagnosed with HIV in 2022 were in an advanced stage of the disease, with a seriously compromised immune situation or even already suffering from AIDS. This indicates a problem with late diagnosis, leading to lower effectiveness of antiretroviral therapy and a higher probability of transmitting HIV unintentionally.
The report also pointed out that the number of people living with HIV has been growing, rising from 127 thousand to 142 thousand between 2012 and 2021. The incidence of new AIDS diagnoses also remains a concern, with 403 new cases reported in 2022, demonstrating a delay in diagnosis for the majority of cases.
The main mode of HIV transmission is sexual intercourse (43% heterosexual, 41% MSM), with infections attributable to people who use drugs accounting for 4.3% of cases. The report also outlined the regions with the highest rates of new HIV diagnoses in 2022, including Lazio, Tuscany, Abruzzo, and Campania.
Even though data on AIDS deaths in 2022 are not yet available, the report indicated that the number of deaths from AIDS has been stable since 2014, underlining the ongoing impact of the virus.
Although the increase in HIV incidence is an concerning trend, the report also emphasized that the 2022 figure is still 25% lower than in 2019, and the number of cases has more than halved compared to ten years ago. Nonetheless, these numbers serve as a stark reminder that HIV is still a significant public health issue.