30 November 2004
European Union activities relating to HIV/AIDS
To mark World AIDS day on 1 December, this background note summarises
legislative actions and programmes financed by the European Union
to increase understanding and awareness of HIV/AIDS issues.
Political leadership in the
fight against AIDS in Europe:
Fighting the resurgent epidemic on
the European continent requires governments to make HIV/AIDS a key
priority. The EU is determined to provide political leadership for
a coordinated continent-wide effort against the disease. In September
this year the Commission and the government of Lithuania co-hosted
a conference of health ministers, AIDS experts and civil society
representatives from across the EU and its neighbours to kick start
this effort. The Vilnius conference produced commitments for action
by national governments and endorsed a road-map for the HIV/AIDS
epidemic in Europe and its neighbourhood (see: IP/04/1111).
Fighting HIV/AIDS in the
The EU has a key role to play in
delivering the Europe-wide strategy against HIV/AIDS agreed at the
Vilnius conference in September (see: IP/04/1111).
The Commission is working with Member States and other partners
- Raise public awareness and prevent people being infected with
- Ensure access to affordable anti-retrovirals for people living
- Reinforcing the epidemiological surveillance of HIV/AIDS
- Involve civil society groups in the strategy
An important focus of EU action is
addressing the challenges faced by vulnerable groups, such as such
as migrants, sex workers, prisoners and, in particular, young people.
During 2004 the Commission has focused on best practice in HIV/AIDS
prevention and sex education.
There is worrying evidence that many
young people in Europe are either unaware of – or choose to
ignore – health advice about safer sex. The EU and its partners
have agreed the need for a continet wide information effort to remedy
this. A coordinated package of national information campaigns will
be developed in 2005.
Another significant step forward
was the adoption of a Directive laying down EU-wide standards for
the quality and safety of human blood and blood components.
Fighting HIV/AIDS in the
Girls and women carry a heavier burden
and are affected more often and at an earlier age by HIV/AIDS than
men. The situation is particularly dismal in Sub-Saharian Africa,
where almost 57% of the adult population infected by HIV/AIDS are
women. Higher rates of poverty among women, the lack of education
leading to lower literacy rates, a lack of access to effective prevention
tools, the pervasive effects of gender inequality, and sexual violence
inside and outside marriage make women more susceptible to get infected.
In addition to the immediate human suffering inflicted on women,
and in light of poor access to basic services, the number of children
orphaned by HIV/AIDS grows day by day beyond the 15 million already
The European response to this challenge
is based on a “policy framework” adopted in October
to confront three of the major communicable diseases – HIV/AIDS,
malaria and Tuberculosis. This will be translated in concrete initiatives
in those countries in an Action Plan to be presented in early 2005.
While making condoms available is
still the most effective strategy to prevent transmission, the European
Commission’s strategy includes promoting the development of
microbicides (a vaginal gel preventing transmission)
and investing in the development of an effective and affordable
HIV/AIDS vaccine for developing countries as a
potentially ground-breaking means to control the disease.
Furthermore, it is clear that
education, and especially girls’ educations, is key.
The EC supports primary education programmes in more than 30 developing
countries, with an annual average contribution of €260 million.
Teachers play a crucial role in strengthening the school system’s
response to HIV/AIDS, but in many countries there is a sharp shortage
of teachers due to the impact of HIV/AIDS.
Providing access to treatment
for people infected is a prime objective. The EC is actively pursuing
this in the WTO, through EC legislation on tiered pricing on pharmaceutical
products, and through the promotion of local production. The EC
is also the second largest donor to the Global Fund to Fight
AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, with €460.5 million
committed for the period 2001-2006.
European and Developing Countries
Clinical Trials Partnership
The EDCTP is a research programme
for the development of new medical products, microbicides and vaccines
to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis targeted at sub-Saharan
Africa. It focuses on phase II/III clinical trials for the three
poverty-related diseases and is tailored to the specific needs of
The EDCTP was created by 15 European
countries to establish a long term, sustainable and genuine partnership
between European and developing countries. The European Union decided
to support the EDCTP via Article 169 of the Treaty by allocating
€ 200 million from the 6th Research Framework Programme. The
EDCTP target budget is € 600 million for the period 2003 -
Apart from the €200 million
from the EU, €200 million will come from Member States' national
activities, and further € 200 million still have to be found
from industry, charity and private organisations. The EDCTP is not
part of the general calls for proposals of the European Commission,
instead it operates as a separate legal entity with its own guidelines,
including calls for proposals and appropriate selection and evaluation
Research Framework Programme
In the period from 1998 to 2002,
under the Fifth Framework Programme for Research and Technological
Development, the European Union has made substantial investments
in a broad range of collaborative research activities related to
HIV/AIDS. €28m has been allocated to vaccine research, €10m
to drug discovery and research and €9m for research on health
policy and heath systems. The European project partnerships undertaking
this research have included worldwide partners as well.
The Sixth Research Framework Programme
(2002-2006) is funding a number of projects in the field of HIV/AIDS
research. These include research to develop a specific HIV microbicide
for the prevention of sexual transmission/acquisition of HIV, and
further research on vaccines. Ongoing research seeks to increase
understanding of the immune mechanism.
Michael H. Wappelhorst, Press and information
officer, Research DG
Tel.: +32.2.298 75 75, Fax: +32.2.295 82 20