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Combating HIV/AIDS in the European Union and neighbouring countries (2009-2013)

Each year, more than 50,000 new cases of HIV are diagnosed in the EU and neighbouring countries. There is currently no cure for HIV, thus making it necessary to take preventive action. This Communication presents the European Commission’s action plan to combat and improve the prevention of HIV/AIDS.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 26 October 2009 - Combating HIV/AIDS in the European Union and neighbouring countries, 2009-2013 [COM(2009) 569 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

This Communication presents the European Commission’s action plan to combat HIV/AIDS for the period 2009-2013. It is a complementary measure to the European Programme for Action to Confront HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis through External Action (2007-2011).

Current situation of HIV in Europe

The prevalence rate of HIV infection is estimated at between 0.1 % and 1.2 % in Europe, depending on the State. This Communication notes an alarming rise in the spread of the virus, mainly in the east of the continent. Furthermore, it notes differences between the means of contamination:

  • mainly sexual transmission in countries in the west of the European Union;
  • mainly through injecting drug use in Eastern Europe and in some neighbouring countries *.

Vulnerable groups (who are most likely at risk of infection) are mainly:

  • injecting drug users;
  • men having sex with men;
  • women;
  • sex workers.

Between 30 % and 50 % of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in the EU, and up to 70 % in European neighbouring countries, are unaware of their HIV status. Moreover, access to care and prevention measures is still limited and varies according to the country.

Objectives of the EU 2009-2013 Action Plan

The EU action plan on combating HIV/AIDS aims at:

  • contributing to reducing the number of new infections in all European countries by 2013;
  • improving access to prevention, treatment, care and support;
  • improving quality of life for people living with, affected by or vulnerable to the virus.

In order to meet these objectives, the European Commission proposes to act in the following areas:

  • political leadership: the Commission intends to link the response to HIV/AIDS with the socio-economic priorities in political strategies at country level. It invites all stakeholders to take account of HIV when implementing policies, legislation and EU agreements.
  • involvement of civil society and people living with HIV/AIDS: the Commission encourages Civil Society organisations, as well as associations representing PLWHA and people affected by the virus to participate in combating HIV in the EU and neighbouring countries. For this reason, the Civil Society Forum should be maintained, as should the HIV/AIDS Think Tank.
  • society responsibilities and human rights: it is crucial to ensure that the human rights of persons with HIV status are respected, and that prejudice and stigmatisation of such persons is halted. To this end, the Commission plans to step up awareness-raising efforts and public information campaigns, and to improve training on HIV in social and public health sectors.
  • universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support: the Commission wishes to help develop strategies aimed at improving access for all to safe and affordable antiretroviral medicines, such as structural funds or social funds. It intends to support UNAIDS, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Priority areas and groups at risk

The Communication defines the most affected regions as a priority, particularly the area including Eastern European countries that are the subject of the European Neighbourhood Policy. Although the virus tends now to be transmitted more and more by heterosexual means, the most affected groups are still:

  • men having sex with men;
  • injecting drug users;
  • migrants from countries with a high rate of HIV-infected people.

The Commission considers that it is crucial to improve prevention among these groups and in these areas, as well as the treatment of co-infections such as tuberculosis or hepatitis.

Surveillance and research

HIV/AIDS surveillance for Europe is carried out by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in cooperation with the WHO Regional Office for Europe, and by UNAIDS. The Commission invites the Member States to apply the Decision introducing a network for the surveillance and control of communicable diseases in order to collect more robust and comprehensive data.

The Commission intends to encourage HIV research through the framework programme for research and the programme in the field of health. It also plans to support investments towards the development and implementation of innovative preventive and therapeutic interventions.

Key terms of the Act
  • Neighbouring countries: the Russian Federation, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia, Ukraine.
Last updated: 01.03.2011
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