Youth In European Union Lack Knowledge About HIV/AIDS

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HIV/AIDS has become a"forgotten disease" among young people in the European Union, MarkosKyprianou, the European commissioner for public health, said on Wednesday in anaddress to members of the European Parliament, Inter Press Service reports.

Kyprianou said that visiting a school to mark World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 was an "eye-opener" forhim, adding that students he met "know that using condoms is the bestprotection," but "they are too embarrassed or too shy" to buythem. He also said that opinion polls have found a "lack of knowledge"among youth about the disease. Some youth have reported that they are unawareof how HIV is transmitted, that they believe they are not at risk ofcontracting HIV or that the disease can be acquired through touching, sharing aglass with or kissing someone who is HIV-positive.

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According to Inter Press Service, the latest United Nations dataindicate that at least 760,000 E.U. residents are living with HIV. The EuropeanUnion recorded nearly 27,000 new cases of HIV in 2005. Although the European Commission has called for HIV/AIDS to be a top priority among member countries,the body lacks the authority to take full action, Kyprianou said. BritishMember of European Parliament John Bowis said, "The level of basicknowledge (within Europe) has been going downover [the] last five years, while the myths and misunderstandings have beenrising." He added, "One in five don't know that [HIV] can betransmitted through sex without a condom."

Italian MEP Vittorio Agnoletto said he expected the European Commission torelease "much more concrete and pragmatic proposals" to addressHIV/AIDS than those it has made to date, Inter Press Servicereports. He said E.U. officials should advocate for mandatory sex education inschools, and he voiced concerns about how intellectual property rights onantiretroviral drugs are limiting drug access in developing countries. PierreSchapira, a French Socialist, said that increasing access to antiretrovirals isessential to controlling the disease and preventing drug resistance. He addedthat there should not be provisions inserted into future trade agreements thatwould restrict countries' ability to waive patents on drugs when they need toaddress a public health issue.

According to Inter Press Service, MEPs from the Socialist Group also have asked that the varying tax rates oncondoms across Europe be addressed when theEuropean Union's value added tax system is reviewed next year. Socialist Groupmembers have said that no more than the legal minimum of 5% be charged (Cronin,Inter Press Service, 12/12). Social Group members last month in Brussels launched a campaign on the social networking Website Facebook to cut tax rates on condoms in an effort to curb increasing HIV/AIDS rates in Europe.In the European Union, VAT rates vary. Ireland has a 21% VAT rate oncondoms, which is the highest in the European Union. The United Kingdom last year reducedVAT on condoms from 17.5% to 5% (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report,11/12).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Reportis published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. KaiserFamily Foundation.

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