Member of the European Commission, responsible for Health and Consumer Policy
Speech delivered at the Opening Ceremony of the XVIII International AIDS Conference
XVIII INTERNATIONAL AIDS CONFERENCE
Vienna, Austria, 18 July 2010
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to have the honour of participating in this important Conference, which the European Commission is very pleased to support.
HIV and AIDS have now been wreaking havoc on people and communities across the world for more than a quarter of century.
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. That might sound like a relative success.
However, even our relatively affluent society is suffering from an increase in infections.
One of our main objectives is to strengthen co-operation between the European Union and our neighbouring countries to tackle the HIV epidemic.
And in a broader context, we express our disappointment at the fact that the Millennium Goal of universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care by 2010 has not been met.
We must step up our efforts to fight this chronic situation.
The EU Member States have recently reaffirmed their determination to support the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
This resolve recognises the need for all partners to demonstrate firm political commitment, to implement policy changes and to take concrete action.
I believe Health is a universal right and so is access to HIV treatment. Sadly, a right that is still denied to millions of people.
HIV treatment is not a luxury. It is a matter of life or death. And this is why it must become universally available. This will pay dividends not just for people but for society as a whole.
The EU was among the first contributors to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, to which the European Commission alone has pledged more than one billion euros.
We sincerely hope that big donors, wealthy countries and other organisations will continue to contribute.
Contributing is not just a question of donations. It is a question of strengthening country ownership and aid effectiveness through long-term and predictable financing.
We will continue to keep AIDS high on the agenda of our dialogue with partner countries and civil society.
Rights here, right now – the rallying call of this conference – is certainly well chosen. The time has come to turn well-meaning goals into tangible successes.
We need to improve access to information; prevention; treatment; care; and support. And stigmatisation and discrimination must be the focus of greater attention.
Some might think - it is easy for a European to say this.
But, as we made clear in our European AIDS strategy, even here in Europe we need to improve leadership and to empower civil society. We need greater efficiency of prevention and anti-discrimination measures; and finally we need equal access to treatment and care.
Let me highlight the situation in the European Union:
There are major inequalities in treatment coverage across Europe, from 8 to 100% of those who need it;
Costs for treatment differ enormously between EU countries, with stocks of medication sometimes running out;
Between 15 to 38% of people living with HIV in the European Union do not know they have HIV; and many people do not have easy access to a testing centre;
Some countries provide comprehensive harm reduction measures, while others do not.
Ladies and Gentlemen
We must put an end to this epidemic.
We must stop HIV's path of destruction.
Politicians, policy-makers, international organisations, businesses, celebrities, health professionals, citizens – we all have a role to play; to support the AIDS community and to do everything in our power to fight AIDS. And this is why we are here today.
I am confident that a clear vision will emerge from this conference on how our goals and targets can be reached for the benefit of those millions of people living with HIV / AIDS.