E.U. Membership Could Increase Potential for Rise in Slovakia’s HIV Prevalence
The May 22 issue of the Lancet featured an article on HIV/AIDS in Slovakia, which "despite having one of the most impoverished health care systems in Europe, has one of the world's lowest" HIV prevalence rates. Only 119 HIV cases have been recorded in the country since testing began in 1985, and the World Health Organization estimates that the adult HIV prevalence rate is 0.1%. Neighboring Austria, which has "one of the best" health systems in the world and invests "substantial amounts" of money in HIV/AIDS, has an adult prevalence rate of 0.2% -- double that of Slovakia, according to the Lancet. Health officials say that the reasons for the country's low HIV prevalence are unclear, according to the Lancet. Communist restrictions on travel during the early period of the epidemic may have played a role in keeping the disease in check, some officials say. However, the country has not seen the same "explosion" in HIV/AIDS that other former Soviet states have experienced since the fall of communism, according to the Lancet. Some officials say that the low prevalence may be because of the government's swift response to the disease; the government of what was known as Czechoslovakia during the 1980s organized awareness campaigns and opened testing centers. In addition, the Czech government was able to draw on the experiences of Western countries, where programs had been "up and running" for at least seven years, some officials said. Regardless, many health officials are warning that Slovakia's entry into the European Union could increase travel and the "potential for the disease to spread across borders," the Lancet says (Holt, Lancet, 5/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.