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Brussels, 1 December 2008

World AIDS Day 2008 – European Commission calls for focus on prevention and HIV testing

Twenty-five years after HIV was first isolated by researchers, there is still no cure or vaccine against AIDS. It is estimated that today, more than 30 million people worldwide live with HIV/AIDS, and about 2 million people die every year. Over two thirds of these deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. In Europe, more than 700,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS with 30,000 new infections reported annually.

"We need to underline the importance of the threat posed to the world by HIV and not to forget that HIV/AIDS is still a major health problem today", said EU Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou. "We must continue to improve the knowledge, awareness and information on HIV/AIDS, especially among young people and high risk groups. As long as there is no cure for AIDS, prevention remains the best weapon to combat HIV/AIDS."

Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel said that "HIV/AIDS is one of the main issues preventing developing countries being lifted out of poverty. We still need to do much more in raising awareness of HIV and how to prevent its transmission across the developing world. We must all work harder to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of halting the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015. There's no time to lose."

Today, on World AIDS Day:

  • Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou delivers a keynote speech on HIV/AIDS at the University of Nicosia in Cyprus and will visit an HIV/AIDS Clinic at Larnaca General Hospital. The Commissioner will call for a stronger focus on HIV/AIDS prevention activities targeted at young people. Many of today's youth missed the successful awareness and prevention campaigns of the 1980's and 1990's and therefore do not have sufficient knowledge and understanding of the disease to protect themselves from contracting it. Commissioner Vassiliou will also highlight the importance of early diagnosis through HIV testing. An estimated 30% of the people infected do not know their HIV status. Late diagnosis results in late treatment, and consequently in a lower quality of life for people living with HIV/AIDS. However, people need to be reassured that knowing their HIV status will help them in the long run to make important decisions in their lives and access treatment early.
  • Commissioner Michel is in Doha at the UN conference on Financing for Development where Europe is taking the lead on efforts to secure more funding for development. Much of this financing goes towards achieving the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) which includes tackling HIV/AIDS as a priority. The Commission has contributed a total of 622 million EUR over the period 2002-2007 to the Global Fund to fight AIDS and has pledged another 300 million EUR for the period 2008-2010.


A focus on prevention and testing

The Commission is alarmed by the increasing number of young people, and people belonging to risk groups, who are being infected with HIV. A second EU strategy document to combat HIV/AIDS is currently being prepared, and will be adopted by the Commission in autumn 2009. A focus on prevention remains the central element of the Commission's policy.

HIV testing is a key to early diagnosis. Commissioner Vassiliou recently took part in a discussion organised by Members of European Parliament, where she agreed to support political cooperation to improve the situation. The goal: Increasing the number of patients who know their HIV status. In this respect, the Commission welcomes the resolution of the European Parliament on HIV testing adopted on 20 November 2008.

European Commission's European and Global response to fighting HIV/AIDS

The European Commission is involved in the fight against AIDS at European and Global levels. A central element of the Commission's work is built around structures such as the HIV/AIDS Think Tank and The Civil Society Forum where Member States and European NGOs meet to discuss common aims, strategies and actions. Fighting stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS is a core element on the Commission's agenda.

As a founding member of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, the European Commission plays a crucial role in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Working together with EU Member States, the Commission seeks to strengthen health systems and improve outcomes for people living with HIV/AIDS in developing countries.

The EU and the European Commission together contributed for 55% (2003-2006) of the total contributions to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

More information:

Commissioner Vassiliou video message on World AIDS day

For more information on Commission actions in HIV/AIDS

For more information on Development

For more information on the International Conference on Financing for Development

EP resolution on HIV testing

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