British International Development Secretary Urges E.U. Ministers To Approve HIV/AIDS, Global Health Action Plan
British International Development Secretary Hilary Benn on Monday urged ministers from the European Union to approve an action plan outlying how member nations can improve the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria worldwide, Reuters reports (Moller, Reuters, 5/23). The European Commission last month adopted the "Programme for Action: Accelerated Action on HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis in the Context of Poverty Reduction," which suggests E.U. governments in their 2007-2013 budgetary discussions agree to help fill the financing gap of efforts to fight the three diseases, which the United Nations estimates will be $14.9 billion annually by 2007. The proposal says the expanded program should include the distribution of insecticide-treated nets and condoms at no cost, increased access to counseling and testing for HIV/AIDS, and the promotion of affordable drugs, research and education programs. The proposal also calls on E.U. governments to help launch political dialogue about the stigma, discrimination and human rights issues facing people living with the diseases, as well as address specific concerns of vulnerable groups, such as orphans and children (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/28). Although E.U. member states have pledged to provide 0.7% of their gross national incomes by 2015 for poverty-reduction initiatives, only four E.U. states -- Denmark, Sweden, Luxembourg and the Netherlands -- have met or surpassed that goal, Reuters reports.
"I don't think people should die because they have sex," Benn said, adding, "You need to make sure that people have the means to protect themselves. ... Giving access to condoms is essential if we are going to beat AIDS." Benn said the HIV/AIDS pandemic is not only a "human tragedy" but also an "economic catastrophe." He added that the European Union should be liberal with development aid because the need in developing countries is "very evident and very clear." E.U. ministers are expected to approve the action plan on Tuesday, when they also will discuss proposals that member states provide 0.51% of their GNIs for development aid by 2010 (Reuters, 5/23).