European Commission Warns Region’s HIV/AIDS Epidemic Worsening, Calls for Increased Commitment To Fight Disease
The European Commission on Wednesday warned that the region's HIV/AIDS epidemic is worsening and called on member nations to increase efforts in the fight against the disease, the EUobserver reports (Ruuda, EUobserver, 9/9). In a new report, the commission calls for "a coordinated and integrated approach" to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, ensure access to treatment for lower-income people and develop new medications and vaccines, according to an European Union release. According to the report, the proportion of newly reported HIV cases in Western Europe has doubled since 1995, and some E.U. member nations and neighboring Eastern European countries have some of the highest HIV incidence rates in the world. "HIV/AIDS is not just a problem for Africa and the developing world. We have a serious epidemic beginning to resurface right here in parts of Europe. The E.U. must provide political leadership for the continentwide action needed to avert this," Commissioner Pavel Telicka said (E.U. release, 9/8). He added that leaders should make better use of the $1.5 billion that the European Union has designated for programs to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, BBC News reports (Lungescu, BBC News, 9/8). About 1.3 million HIV-positive people live in Europe, according to the Associated Press (Brand, Associated Press, 9/8).
The European Union is scheduled to have an AIDS conference in Lithuania from Sept. 16 to 17, where health ministers from member nations will discuss the report and seek a coordinated approach to fighting HIV/AIDS, Reuters reports (Reuters, 9/8). At the conference, E.U. leaders will "discuss how to introduce 'best practices' on the ground, boost research and improve surveillance," according to Telicka, the Associated Press reports. Such initiatives might include improving access to needle-exchange programs for injection drug users, offering voluntary HIV tests and distributing condoms among commercial sex workers, according to AIDS advocates (Associated Press, 9/8). "The commission is ready to play its part in fighting the resurgence of HIV/AIDS in Europe," David Byrne, E.U. commissioner for health and consumer protection, said, adding, "However, the integrated approach we propose will only work if other partners play their role too. Governments in the E.U. and its neighboring countries need to give HIV/AIDS the attention it deserves" (E.U. release, 9/8).