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The fight against HIV/AIDS in the EU: Questions & Answers

European Commission - MEMO/10/336   16/07/2010

Other available languages: none

MEMO/10/336

Brussels, 16 July 2010

The fight against HIV/AIDS in the EU: Questions & Answers

How is the Commission responding to HIV/AIDS?

At global level, more than 2 million people still die of AIDS each year, and almost 3 million people become newly infected.

One percent of these new infections occur in the EU. Depending on the regions, it is estimated that between 15 and 38% of HIV infected people in Europe do not know they have HIV, and are therefore diagnosed too late.

EU policy focuses on prevention, and support for people living with HIV/AIDS.

The Commission addresses HIV/AIDS across its main policy strands. It does so via financial instruments such as project grants, contributions to the Global Fund on AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM), health and research framework programmes and operational instruments such as trade instruments and action plans – including for neighbouring countries.

In 2009 the Commission adopted a Communication on combating HIV/AIDS in the EU and neighbouring countries. The aim of this Communication is to:

  • Support EU Member States and stakeholders across Europe to improve access to prevention, testing, treatment and care and to improve quality of life of people living with HIV /AIDS.

  • Promote HIV/AIDS prevention by working towards developing ways to reach populations most at risk of HIV

  • Strengthen the role of civil society.

  • Collect data and monitor conditions across Europe and support national authorities by providing information on which to base their policies.

At the global scale, the EU adopted in 2006 "A European Programme for Action to confront HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis through External Action (2007-2011)". This covers external action by the Commission and the Member States for developing and middle income countries where poverty related diseases are an issue. It complements the above mentioned 2009 Communication on action on HIV/AIDS in the EU and neighbouring countries. In the context of a 2009 progress review, the Council of the European Union invited the Commission to initiate a broad consultative process for the preparation of a new Programme for Action for 2012 and beyond.

How much money does the Commission spend on the response to HIV/AIDS?

At European level, the Commission funds HIV/AIDS projects and programmes through several avenues.

  • The Health Programme: around 5 Million € on average has been spent annually on HIV/AIDS in the last years.

  • The 6th Framework Programme (FP6) which ran from 2002 to 2006: The Commission spent 130 Million € on collaborative research on HIV/AIDS.

  • The 7th Framework Programme (FP7) which runs from 2007 to 2013: So far the Commission has invested 70 Million €.

At the global level, the Commission funds treatments and development of tools for fighting HIV/AIDS via several means.

  • Global Fund on AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFTAM): The Commission is among the main donors, contributing around 100 Million € annually; between 2001 and 2009, the EU (Member States + Commission) has contributed up to 7 billion USD which is equivalent to 51% of all contributions provided to the Fund.

  • It also supports countries through health-sector budget support or health programs (500 Million € in 2008), and indirectly through general budget support

  • The European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) created by the Commission: The Commission has financed around 145 projects for over 100 Million €.

  • Thematic programme 'Investing in People', has a total budget of 9 Million €, part of which goes towards European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) countries, which are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and the Russian Federation.

How is the Commission promoting the development of effective vaccine and cure for HIV/AIDS?

The European Commission promotes the development of an effective vaccine and cure for HIV/AIDS through EU-funded research and priority setting. Since the start of the HIV pandemic, the Commission has considered HIV/AIDS as one of its top research priorities and a large amount of money it has spent and is spending on HIV/AIDS research relates to finding a vaccine and cure for HIV/AIDS. During the first 3 years of FP7 (2007-2009), 32 of the 70 Million € spent on HIV/AIDS research has been specifically allocated to the development of an HIV vaccine.

EU-funded research includes vaccines, microbicides, new drugs and therapeutic options, from basic research to advanced clinical trials. As a result, the Commission considers that the EU definitively and effectively contributes to the global pursuit to find a vaccine and cure for HIV/AIDS.

What is the Commission doing on access to affordable antiretroviral (ARV) treatment?

Providing citizens with medical treatment and services is the responsibility of Member States. However, the Commission promotes universal access to treatment through coordination and facilitation of negotiations. While antiretroviral treatment is today widely available across Europe, there is concern in neighbouring countries and even in some EU Member States about how the cost of treatment will impact on healthcare budgets in view of an increase in new infections. In addition, treatment is a lifelong necessity and is therefore a long term commitment.

In 2007-2008, the Commission has facilitated discussions between the pharmaceutical industry, the Trio Presidency under the lead of Germany, governments of several Member States and civil society organisations to explore options to support access to affordable anti-retroviral treatment (ARV) – the so-called "Post-Bremen Process". This effort led to reduced prices for ARVs, for example in Bulgaria. The Commission is ready to continue these discussions if countries require assistance.

At a global level, the Commission supports access to highly active antiretroviral treatment (HAART) in developing countries mainly through its contribution to the Global Fund. It also does so through its bilateral support on health, as efficient health systems are essential to good treatment.

With regard to the price of drugs, and the development of good quality generic drugs, the Commission has been very active in World Trade Organisation discussions leading to the provision on trade related intellectual property rights, for public health reasons. The Commission also supports the World Health Organisation to advance transfer of technology which will facilitate local production of drugs.

How is the Commission cooperating with neighbouring countries at the Eastern border of the Union to address HIV/AIDS?

Countries immediately bordering the European Union in the East - Russian Federation, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine - have high numbers of people living with HIV/AIDS and high infection rates. UNAIDS estimates the number of people with HIV/AIDS at 940 000 in the Russian Federation (registered cases 370 000), and 377 000 in Ukraine (registered cases 113 000).

To address this problem, the Commission involves both governmental and non governmental (NGO) representatives in EU meetings and technical projects. Under the umbrella of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) the Commission seeks to address HIV/AIDS as a public health concern in agreements with third countries where rates are particularly high (e.g. Ukraine, Moldova). The Health dialogue has been developed over the past years on the basis of the bilateral agreements with partner countries and ENP Action Plans, covering a host of subjects such as health policy and communicable diseases including, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

In addition, under its thematic programme 'Investing in People', the Commission has very recently launched a new call for proposals 'Capacity building for non-state actors in relation to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care for the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Countries'. Actions are eligible seven countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and the Russian Federation).

What is the Commission doing to address the migration issue?

HIV/AIDS related to migration is, in most settings, an important but by no means the main driving force for the progression of the epidemic in the EU. Due to a lack of knowledge of the health systems in Europe, linguistic issues or broader social and economic problems, migrants risk to only get tested at a later stage of the HIV infection. The implementation of prevention measures must, therefore, be better targeted to key populations at higher risk. To be successful, health care institutions must actively reach out to people in need and cooperate closely with migrants' groups. As an example, the Commission's Directorate General for Health & Consumers is funding a European wide project "Aids &Mobility" which trains mediators from migrant communities in health issues to work with their peers.

Does the Commission foresee the promotion of HIV testing in Europe?

Until a vaccine or a cure for HIV can be found, the Commission's key objective is to contribute to the prevention of new HIV and associated infections and to improve the quality of life of people living with HIV/AIDS. Targeted HIV testing, offered according to internationally accepted principles. Testing is provided in all Member States, usually in line with agreed standards and principles, i.e. it is voluntary and linked to counselling services. Areas for improvement are information to the public on how and where to get tested, assurance of confidentiality and post-testing support and counselling.

The Commission will continue to provide its political support to improve the situation regarding HIV testing across Europe and to overcome potential barriers for HIV testing. Several projects funded through the Health Programme focus on this topic.

Where can I find out more?

More information can be found on the Commission's

Health and Consumer Policy website:

http://ec.europa.eu/health/sexual_health/hiv_aids/index_en.htm

Research website:

http://ec.europa.eu/research/health/infectious-diseases/poverty/diseases/index_en.html

Development website:

http://ec.europa.eu/development/policies/9interventionareas/humandev/humandevhealth3_en.cfm


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