Key message 2
Many people in Europe are unaware of their HIV infection.
HIV infection can remain asymptomatic for a long period of time, and a high proportion of infected persons are unaware of their affliction.
It has been estimated that 30% of individuals infected with HIV in Europe are undiagnosed. Estimates by country vary between 15% and 50%.
Individuals who are unaware of their infection are at risk of severe complications and possibly death, as they cannot benefit from treatment. Evidence suggests that individuals that are aware of their HIV infection engage less in risky behaviors related to sex and injecting drug use. The risk of HIV transmission is 3.5 times higher for persons who were unaware of their infection as compared to those who were aware of it.
In addition, there are some individual perceptions and behaviours that can lead to late testing and thus unawareness of HIV infection:
- Personal perception of not being at risk of HIV
- Fear of a possible positive result
- Belonging to marginalised, stigmatised groups in society (e.g. men who have sex with men and injecting drug users)