World Aids Day - Czech Republic posts lowest number of HIV/AIDS cases in Europe

Photo: CTK

More medicine, more money, and a motivated work force is what the world still needs - says the World Health Organisation today, World AIDS Day, 25 years after the first case of HIV was discovered. Today, two thirds of HIV/AIDS patients are in sub-Saharan Africa. But the statistics for Europe are just as alarming. The annual increase of cases is 40 percent higher than in Africa, mostly due to rapidly rising cases in Eastern Europe. In the Czech Republic, 904 people were infected with HIV when the latest statistics were released on October 31. Together with Slovakia, it recorded the lowest figures in Europe.

Marie Bruckova
Dita Asiedu spoke to the head of the National Reference Laboratory on AIDS, Dr. Marie Bruckova, to find out why:

"I think there are several factors in play. First of all, for this part of Europe we started relatively early with massive education campaigns just to let people know what the disease is, how it is spread, and so on. I think we also have a very good cultural background. That is why we are called Central Europe and not Eastern Europe. We have very deep relations with Eastern Europe but our cultural background is quite different. Another factor is that we introduced syringe and needle exchange programmes very early. Our drug user population also wasn't too big. This exchange programme has been functioning for many years."

One thing that I have noticed is that younger generation doesn't use condoms. Many women are on the pill but the use of condoms isn't very popular here:

"I may agree with you but if you don't have this virus in the population, it cannot be spread. So, sexual behaviour without a condom is relatively not so risky in this country than in other countries. But this can change any moment and it's very dangerous to underestimate the situation."

The number of foreigners coming into the country is also on the increase, especially from Eastern Europe...

Photo: CTK
"That's true. We have two statistics. There are the national statistics that register only those HIV cases among Czech citizens and foreigners with long term residency or those waiting to receive Czech citizenship. Then, on the other hand, we also have a group of foreigners who are here either legally or illegally and are infected. That's a problem because we cannot reach this population. There is no obligatory testing of these foreigners so we don't know what the real situation is."

Apart from this being one of the bigger problems, is there any other problem that the Czech Republic faces?

"The young generation underestimates the danger of this infection because they hear that it's curable and there is nothing that they could be afraid of. They don't see celebrities dying from the disease as it once was twenty years ago. So there is no real example of how the disease progresses."