In a 12-year span, estimated HIV incidence (the amount of new infections) among gay men in Poland rose 13.5-fold, with numbers in the capital city of Warsaw looking even worse, according to a study published in Eurosurveillance, an open-access journal. The study shows that Poland's numbers are among a trend throughout Western Europe and North America that indicates a rising incidence rate among gay men, especially young gay men.
Between the years 2000 and 2011, there were 9,286 new HIV diagnoses in Poland, the study reports. Twenty-four percent of those cases were designated as "men who have sex with men" (MSM) transmissions. However, 60.5% -- or 5,615 of the people diagnosed -- did not have a transmission category indicated.
The rate of new HIV diagnoses among MSM increased from 2.5 per million men in 2000 to 33.8 per million men in 2011, according to the study. In the Mazowieckie region, which includes Warsaw, the number increased almost 40-fold, from 2.2 to 88.8 per million men.
The researchers reported that all groups included in the study showed an increase in HIV incidence, with MSM, especially young MSM, having the most pronounced increase. The most rapid increase in the new number of HIV diagnoses occurred among gay men between the ages of 25 and 34, which went from 13 in 2000 to 315 in 2011.
Researchers pointed to a number of factors that could explain the precipitous rise in new infections, including greater access to testing. "There were no systematic changes in the surveillance system or testing policy during the study period," said the researchers. "Additionally, the number of voluntary testing and counseling sites offering free-of-charge, anonymous testing increased; such sites were mentioned as the last test setting by 45% of MSM in Poland in 2010."
The researchers also pointed to previous studies done in 2004 and 2005 that showed a large proportion of HIV infections may have been previously undiagnosed. "Although this increase alone would not fully explain the notification trend, it indicates that an upsurge of new HIV infections may also play a role."
For more information, including findings and limitations of the study, you can read the entire study at Eurosurveillance. The study's findings were also recently reported by Mark Mascolini for the International AIDS Society.
Mathew Rodriguez is the editorial project manager for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
Follow Mathew on Twitter: @mathewrodriguez.