Questions And Answers On HIV/AIDS

Armen Hareyan's picture

How bad isthe HIV epidemic in Europe?

TheHIV/AIDS epidemic is a serious and growing health and social problem. Itconcerns every country in Europe. UNAIDSestimates that 760 000 are infected with HIV in Western and Central Europe and1,6 million in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.The HIV epidemic in Europe is diverse andtherefore a multitude of approaches based on local settings is needed. Tosimplify the overall picture, in Western and Central Europe the epidemic ismainly driven by sexual contact, while in Eastern Europeit is mostly driven by drug use.

HIV/AIDS innot just a health problem. In many ways it is linked to important socialissues. The most vulnerable groups of people are the ones in our societies thatare the most marginalised - e.g. migrants, drug users, sex workers, etc.Frequently, these people are not able to access services (including treatment)and are even in some cases denied service. In addition, stigma anddiscrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS is a problem in all Europeancountries, but in different ways and magnitudes.

Mainchallenges remain to scale up prevention and ensure universal access totreatment and other related services.

Why shouldthe EU tackle HIV in Europe?

The EU isin a unique position as it is able to bring together different actors toexchange experience and to build partnerships to address more effectively theHIV/AIDS epidemic in Europe.

The EU canalso play a supportive role to that of its Member States and to that of otherEuropean countries. This has already been expressed mainly through the fundingof specific activities.

In the pastfew years, there have been strong voices urging the Commission to play anactive role in combating HIV/AIDS in Europe.All of the main actors on HIV/AIDS agree that the Commission has to undertake aproactive role. These calls have been made through Declarations, Conferences,Council Conclusions, and other means. Member States, InternationalOrganisations and the civil society have actively supported the Commission'sincreased focus on HIV/AIDS in Europe.


What is theCommission doing to address HIV?

TheCommission has established a clear policy on HIV/AIDS in Europe,which includes the neighbouring countries. The policy is expressed in theCommission Communication on combating HIV/AIDS within the European Union and inthe neighbouring countries 2006-2009. Main aspects of the Communication areprevention; surveillance; treatment, care and support; and involvement of civilsociety. Annexed to the Communication is an action plan.

Since 2004,the Commission has put in place structures for consultation with main partnersin order to formulate and implement its policy on HIV/AIDS. These structuresalso help build partnerships among the participants. The most importantstructures are the HIV/AIDS Think Tank and the HIV/AIDS Civil Society Forum.The Think Tank is made up by representatives of: governments from all over Europe, EU agencies (ECDC and EMCDDA), relevantInternational Organisations (WHO, UNAIDS, ILO, UNDP, UNICEF, IOM), and thecivil society. The Civil Society Forum roofs 40 civil society organisationsfrom all over Europe, covering all main themesof the epidemic and all geographical areas. The Commission has considered it apriority in its work on HIV/AIDS to involve those most affected by HIV/AIDS andpopulations most at risk. Fundamental aspect of the work at EU level has beento build partnerships and to base activities on a coordinated approach.

TheCommission uses available funding programmes to support activities to combatHIV. These programs are not all funding activities, which are addressingdirectly HIV, but are addressing the social aspects of the epidemic.Frequently, these are the same issues that need to be address in a much broadercontext, such as discrimination in the workplace.

TheCommission has also provided support by assisting Member States with challengesin addressing specific aspects of HIV. The most recent example of this is theGerman Presidency initiative on affordable treatment. The Commission has beeninvolved in the initiative since its launch at the German Presidency Conferenceon HIV/AIDS in Bremenin March 2007. The Commission has been an observer in number of negotiationmeetings with pharmaceutical companies and provided appropriate support at thepolitical and technical level.

AreEuropeans well informed about HIV/AIDS?

The 2006Eurobarometer on HIV/AIDS prevention showed that, as compared to 2002: