2nd Open Europe AIDS Conference "Europe and HIV/AIDS: New Challenges, New Opportunites"
Friday, September 17, 2004 11:55 AM

European health ministers and experts gathered at a conference in Vilnius, Lithuania to build a consensus on Europe-wide actions to fight the resurgent HIV/AIDS epidemic in the European Union. Opening the conference, European Commissioner Pavel Telicka warned the "silent plague" knew "no boundaries".

A recent EU report stated that infection rates in Russia and some east European countries are now among the highest in the world. A sharp increase in the number of intravenous drug users and a resurgence in unprotected sex, has led a dramatic rise in new HIV infections in recent years for some new EU members, such as Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The EU's eastern neighbours, like Ukraine and Belarus, have the fastest growth of AIDS anywhere in the world. Ukraine is one of the poorest countries in Europe and health services have struggled to cope following the collapse of the USSR. High levels of intravenous drug taking has also affect Ukraine. The United Nations agency, UNAIDS, claims that stigma, ignorance and political indifference about AIDS are deeply entrenched in Ukraine and this has caused the disease to increase.

The number of new cases in western Europe has doubled since 1995, showing the resurgent HIV/AIDS epidemic is not confined to only new EU members. In western Europe AIDS infection rates have continued to rise as a result of diminishing government commitments to prevention efforts and complacency linked to the availability of treatment.

The EU has set aside 1.2 billion euros ($1.5 billion) to tackle AIDS over the next two years. The conference declaration asserted the need for “coherent, comprehensive and multisectoral national HIV/AIDS coordination structures strategies and financing plans are in place and are implemented at national and relevant sub-national levels, and foster the involvement of people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, including persons caring for family members living with HIV/AIDS, in the further development of such measures”.

For more information on the 2nd Open Europe AIDS Conference in Vilnius, Lithuania you can visit the Conference web-site: http://www.aids.lt/iac/index.php.

Compiled from: Europe facing AIDS Epidemic, Marit Ruuda, EUobserver.com, 9 September 2004; Europe unites for new Aids battle, BBC News, 17 September 2004; 2nd Open Europe AIDS Conference "Europe and HIV/AIDS:New Challenges, New Opportunities"