Number of HIV diagnoses in Belgium up 4 per cent in 2021

The number of HIV diagnoses in Belgium rose by 4 per cent in 2021, the country's health institute Sciensano reports on Tuesday. 781 people were diagnosed with HIV in Belgium last year. The country's federal government is providing an additional €1 million budget to bring the HIV epidemic under control.

Overall, the number of HIV diagnoses in Belgium has been declining over the last decade, Sciensano states. In 2020, there was a significant decline of 21 per cent compared to 2019, which was strongly linked to the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic and imposed containment measures. 

The number of new HIV diagnoses increased in 2021 among people of Belgian nationality, both among men who have sex with men and heterosexual men and women, while there was a decrease or stabilisation in the number of HIV diagnoses among non-Belgians.

In 2021, 48 per cent of new recorded HIV infections were diagnosed among men who have sex with men and 48 per cent among heterosexuals. Intravenous drug use was reported for 2 per cent of HIV diagnoses; perinatal transmission accounted for 1 per cent of new diagnoses. 694,792 HIV tests were performed last year, a 10 per cent increase compared to 2020.

It is possible that some individuals were diagnosed with a delay due to the limited accessibility of testing facilities during the COVID lockdown periods in 2020. "However, the fact is that there was only a slight increase in late diagnoses in 2021, only among Belgians."

"Despite progress in recent years, the HIV epidemic in Belgium is not yet under control. It is essential to make further progress in early diagnosis and effective use of the full range of prevention strategies, including PrEP, by persons at risk of HIV," the report reads.

The Belgian federal government is providing an additional €1 million budget for an HIV plan to bring the HIV epidemic in Belgium under control. "Belgium really needs to step up its efforts when it comes to reducing the number of new HIV infections and diagnosing infected people quickly," said Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke (Vooruit, Flemish socialists) in a reaction to Sciensano's report.


A Pharmacy staff member holding a PrEP pill in Washington, DC © AFP PHOTO / Whitman-Walker Health


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