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Action on HIV/AIDS in the European Union and neighbouring countries 2006 - 2009
Building on its working paper entitled "Coordinated and integrated approach to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic within the European Union and in its neighbourhood", the European Commission is trying to bring together all of the interested parties in a joint action programme. In this paper the Commission lays down targets and measures to be implemented by the end of 2009 for each of the areas in which action is needed. More detailed proposals for the main areas of action for the period 2006 - 2010 are presented in the Annex.
Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 15 December 2005 on combating HIV/AIDS within the European Union and in the neighbouring countries, 2006-2009 [COM(2005) 654 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
There are signs of a decline in action on HIV/AIDS at the moment, particularly as regards prevention, surveillance and measures to combat discrimination. This trend runs counter to the targets which have been set, regarding for example the elimination of mother-to-child transmission and universal access to treatment.
In view of this, the European Commission plans to promote joint action at Community level to complement national and international initiatives. The measures to be taken under this initiative will be targeted on:
- the involvement of civil society;
- treatment, care and support;
- cooperation with neighbouring countries.
Involvement of civil society
The main objective in this area is to increase the involvement of civil society in all aspects of the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Several initiatives have already been taken with this aim in mind:
- representatives of civil society have become involved in the HIV/AIDS Think Tank;
- a forum of 30 European organisations has been set up to improve the exchange of information.
In future, the Commission plans to foster cooperation and dialogue with patients and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to ensure that they are even more actively involved in the design, implementation and follow-up of policy on HIV/AIDS. In an effort to strengthen its partnership with the private sector, the Commission is also inviting representatives of industry, including the Union of Industrial and Employers Confederations of Europe (UNICE), to strengthen their response to the epidemic and to play their part in implementing the EU's HIV/AIDS prevention strategy.
The objectives in the area of surveillance are as follows:
- to improve and harmonise surveillance systems to monitor the epidemic, risk behaviour and vulnerability to HIV/AIDS;
- to ensure effective provision of data and information on other sexually transmitted infections;
- to support surveillance of HIV testing.
Surveillance of HIV/AIDS in Europe has until now been coordinated by the EuroHIV network, which is co-financed by the Commission. In 2008 the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) will assume responsibility for this network.
The Commission plans to take the following measures, working with the Member States, neighbouring countries, the ECDC and other partners:
- help to introduce complete geographic coverage of HIV case reporting;
- reassess the objectives of AIDS surveillance and include its reporting in an integrated surveillance system;
- design a standardised approach for appropriate prevention indicators;
- develop estimates of HIV incidence in Europe;
- facilitate the setting-up of sentinel surveillance in high-risk groups;
- facilitate implementation of practical solutions to address the confidentiality obstacles.
The measures to be taken in the area of prevention will aim primarily:
- to facilitate the implementation of the measures adopted;
- to ensure that all citizens have access to information, education and services;
- to improve services for injecting drug users;
- to prevent discrimination against migrants;
- to support the monitoring and evaluation of the methods used.
In the absence of a vaccine or cure, prevention remains the most effective way to combat HIV/AIDS. In view of the situation within the European Union (constant increase in the number of cases), there is a need to step up prevention activities both among the general public and among specific groups (young people, women, sex workers, drug users, etc.).
The Commission therefore intends to promote:
- the implementation of prevention programmes, particularly for the most vulnerable groups;
- safe sex ;
- measures to address the increase in risk-taking behaviour among young people;
- the evaluation of the risks of mother-to-child transmission and the risks associated with drug dependence;
- the development of training programmes for healthcare staff and other professionals caring for those with HIV/AIDS.
Counselling, testing, treatment and support
The objectives in this field are:
- to combat discrimination against and stigmatisation of those living with HIV/AIDS;
- to promote universal access to effective treatment and care;
- to improve social and labour market integration;
These objectives are all interlinked. For example, affordable and accessible services and good treatment reduce stigmatisation and social exclusion. They also encourage responsible sexual behaviour, which helps to prevent the spread of the virus.
The measures to attain these objectives will focus on:
- capacity-building among service providers;
- enhancing the role of NGOs active in this field;
- further developing HIV/AIDS surveillance at European level;
- producing a set of European reference models for Member States and European Neighbourhood Policy partners;
- access to antiretroviral drugs, counselling and testing.
In this area the Commission plans:
- to increase commitments to research and development for vaccines and microbicides;
- to promote access to treatment by developing affordable treatments and diagnosis;
- to support public health research;
- to support private sector involvement;
- to support the use of behavioural prevention methods.
Since the entry into force of the Sixth Framework Programme of Research and Development research into HIV/AIDS has become a top priority for the European Commission. EUR 50 million has been allocated to financing research into prevention and treatment. There has also been an emphasis on the new Member States and neighbouring countries in eastern Europe, which have been invited to take part in both EU-funded proposals, such as the network of excellence on therapeutic clinical trials, and the evaluation process.
Reflecting the Commission's desire for continuity, the Seventh Framework Programme, soon to be negotiated with the Member States, will continue to give priority to HIV/AIDS research. The Commission has proposed an increase in the funding allocated to this programme, particularly in the area of biotechnology, translational research and delivery of healthcare.
HIV/AIDS and the European Neighbourhood Policy
The European Commission intends to increase the involvement of neighbouring countries * in the EU's HIV/AIDS activities in order to perpetuate the exchange of information and best practice.
The Commission will also call on these countries to look into ways of developing a coordinated approach to the HIV/AIDS epidemic through the HIV/AIDS Think Tank and the Civil Society Forum.
The Action Plan annexed to the Communication sets out the measures to be taken according to a strict timetable by the parties involved in each of the priority areas. The various proposals stress in particular the exchange of best practice, training and programmes to raise public awareness.
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