According to a study by BMC Infectious Diseases, HIV/AIDS in Belgium is “largely concentrated among men who have sex with men and sub-Saharan Africans.” According to 2011 data from the Belgian government, 98.2% of patients had links to HIV care, 90.8% were in care and 83.3% were receiving antiretroviral therapy. However, these statistics were disproportionate for certain sections of the population where sub-Saharan Africans on ART had less viral suppression while there was higher retention in care of men who have sex with men.
After carrying out a study, an organization called BREACH (Belgian Research on AIDS and HIV Consortium) concluded that potentially the weakest part of efforts to suppress the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Belgium was the undiagnosed HIV-infected population, which estimates have stated is around 20%. This was particularly prevalent amongst migrants in Belgium and it is a problem that requires attention.
There is also a link between poverty and those suffering from HIV/AIDS. When the Journal of the International AIDS Society conducted research into the link between AIDS and poverty, the results were that vulnerabilities relating to migration such as economic hardship and barriers to HIV testing mean that non-citizens are more likely to become infected by HIV/AIDS.
Better sexual health awareness and an increase in levels of screening are some methods that have helped HIV/AIDS patients in Belgium live longer and enjoy better health. A research organization named Sciensano which targets health and disease has contributed to HIV/AIDS research in Belgium and has recorded encouraging statistics over the past few years. Based on a 2017 report, Sciensano found that there was a 2% decrease in HIV/AIDS transmission since 2016 and 27.5% compared with 2012.
The study also notes that “HIV transmission by intravenous drug use is exceptional in Belgium and was only reported for 1% of the HIV diagnoses in 2017.”
Belgium’s National Strategic Plan
A step that the Belgian government took to reduce the transmission of HIV/AIDS was the implementation of its National Strategic Plan on HIV in 2013. The monarchy of Belgium also endorsed this plan, which had three main goals: preventing HIV/AIDS, providing testing and treatment of HIV/AIDS and providing care and support. In setting up the plan, the government ensured it would specifically target vulnerable groups such as migrants.
In conclusion, Belgium has made significant progress in tackling HIV/AIDS. Government initiatives coupled with the work of other organizations have been effective enough to reduce levels of HIV/AIDS in the country and are a step forward for marginalized groups that the disease impacts the most.
– Claire Dickson