HIV, Chlamydia On the Rise in Sweden
The rate of new HIV cases in Sweden rose 48% during the first half of this year, with 155 cases reported in the first six months of this year, compared to 105 cases reported during the same period in 2000, according to the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control, Reuters Health reports. The largest increase was reported among intravenous drug users, for whom cases jumped from eight in the first half of last year to 25 this year, with most infections reported in Stockholm. SMI epidemiologist Malin Arneborn said, "It's much more than we expected among drug users and the total number in general. This is the largest rise of HIV cases since the early 1990s, when (we) saw a huge increase from people coming to live in Sweden from high-endemic areas from Africa. What we have now among the IV drug users could be called an epidemic." New HIV cases also exhibited a "clear rise" among heterosexual women, with 41 cases reported so far this year compared to 27 cases during the same period last year. Nine women say they were infected in Sweden, while the others believe they were infected in Africa or Asia. Similarly, most men said that they were infected in Africa or Asia. Among homosexual men, the number of new HIV cases increased from 30 to 41 for the first halves of 2000 and 2001, respectively.
Complacency to Blame
AIDS advocacy groups fault complacency about HIV risk, overseas travel and immigration for contributing to the increase of HIV in Sweden, which has one of the lowest HIV infection rates in the world. "People believe that the danger is over now because of a lack of HIV in the media like there was in the 1990s. Also, people are traveling more and coming to Sweden as refugees," Andreas Berglos of the Swedish Association for HIV Positive People told Reuters Health. As Sweden's chlamydia rate has also risen 18% from the first half of last year to the first half of this year, Berglos added that there is a "clear connection between HIV and (other) STDs." To combat the upward trend, the Swedish HIV-STD Prevention Project will begin distributing more HIV and STD information through social workers, hospitals and ads. Gunilla Rado, project manager for the program, said, "We've also seen an attitude change in young people. They're accepting sex the first night, they have more sexual partners, and they're not using condoms. ... We want people to use more condoms to protect themselves against both chlamydia and HIV" (Demos, Reuters Health, 8/8).