The burden of major infectious diseases like HIV, viral hepatitis and tuberculosis (TB) is disproportionately high in the eastern part of Europe. Together these three infections are responsible for the deaths of about 170 000 people in the region every year (HIV 44 000, hepatitis 107 000, TB 20 000) – deaths that are entirely preventable with the right prevention and treatment. And the epidemics continue to grow – in 2021 more than twice as many people became newly infected with HIV compared with year 2000. Many people are infected with both HIV and TB or with both HIV and hepatitis at the same time, and TB remains the leading cause of death in people living with HIV. For viral hepatitis, more than 3 out of 4 people have not been diagnosed and are therefore unaware of their infection.
A major challenge is that the quality and access to healthcare is unevenly distributed across countries and populations, and many people face overwhelming barriers to accessing testing, vaccination, treatment and care. As an additional challenge, available treatments for tuberculosis have become less effective: in eastern Europe, a quarter of patients (26%) become infected with a drug resistant version of the bacteria – many more than in the rest of the world where this only happens to 4% of patients.