Geography of AIDS-associated Kaposi's sarcoma in Europe

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Background:Classical Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) is about four times more common in southern Europeans than in northern Europeans.Objective:To describe the epidemiology of AIDS-associated KS (AIDS-KS) in Europe and to determine whether it occurs with increased frequency in southern Europe.Methods:Analysis of the ‘European non-aggregate AIDS data set’, as of September 1995. Countries with a cumulative total of ≥ 50 KS cases as the presenting manifestation of AIDS were included. Homosexual men were excluded from south versus non-south comparisons because of possible confounding effects due to their route of HIV transmission.Results:KS was the presenting manifestation of AIDS for 13.3% (16 367 out of 122 679) of men and 2% (491 out of 24 826) of women. In all countries, the risk for KS was higher in individuals who acquired HIV infection via sexual rather than parenteral transmission. Among AIDS patients, there is little difference by sex in the risk of KS in injecting drug users (IDU) or transfusion recipients. The percentage with KS increased with age among homosexual and bisexual men, from 10% in the age group 15–19 years to 23% in the age group 30–39 years. In all countries, the percentage with KS declined over time. The risk of KS was not significantly higher in southern Europe. The percentage with KS in southern Europe was slightly lower than in northern Europe (P > 0.1) in male IDU (1.8% versus 2.1%), and only slightly higher (P > 0.1) in female IDU (1.5% versus 1.1%), in male transfusion recipients (3.5% versus 3.0%), in female transfusion recipients (2.4% versus 2.3%), and in both heterosexual men (7.5% versus 6.2%) and women (2.0% versus 1.6%) excluding those originating from countries where heterosexual HIV transmission is frequent.Conclusions:The strong geographic predilection described for classical KS in southern Europe was not seen for AIDS-KS. If KS is caused by a viral infection in an immunodeficient host, our findings suggest the geographical variations in classical KS are not due to variation in prevalence of the causative virus but may be due to geographical variations in the prevalence of a form of mild immunodeficiency.

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