Finland battles with high HIV levels

For the past two years, Finland has experienced record-high levels of HIV infection, according to a report in the international edition of the Helsingin Sanomat.

Rates of infection shot up in 2005, with infection through sexual contact increasing by over 30 per cent. It is estimated that there were over 190 new infections annually for 2006 and 2007.

Experts believe that intravenous drugs were responsible for at least 85 new cases of the infection in 1999, but they are unclear about the cause of the current surge in infection rates.

By distributing clean needles and engaging in education about HIV infection, Finland has successfully reduced the rate of transmission through needles. Last year just eight cases were reported in which infected needles were the cause of infection.

One problem limiting a clearer picture of the situation is the time at which people discover the infection. According to Kirsti Liisola, National Public Health Institute HIV researcher, around a fifth of people do not discover they are infected until after they have had the virus for several years, making it difficult to pinpoint the cause of infection.

Sini Pasanen of the Finnish body, Positive Association, says that making HIV tests more accessible to the population is imperative. In addition, both Pasanen and Liisola agree, people in Finland need more education about HIV, how it spreads and how it can be prevented.

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