EU pressed to do more to combat AIDS in Eastern Europe

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AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria are infectious diseases that together kill millions of people every year.

Recent EU and international efforts have resulted in a dramatic decrease of the global mortality rate caused by these infections, especially in Africa. However, the situation is now heading in the wrong direction in Eastern Europe. 

International health organizations are now warning that, while low-income countries in Africa still deserve a lot of attention, the EU’s neighboring country policy must incorporate a clear plan of action to fight the diseases closer to home.

"Without a proper reaction and help to these former Soviet Union countries, you can expect trouble in the future because infectious diseases do not stop at the border.  I have not seen frankly a particular reaction from the EU in terms of mobilising special resources or creating special initiatives for this issue', said WHO Global Tuberculosis Programme director Dr. Mario Raviglione.

Bulgaria, Romania and other Eastern European countries have all experienced an increase of more than 200% in AIDS-related deaths in the last 10 years.

But these middle-income states are often forgotten as the new EU overseas aid policy only focuses on fighting poverty in African countries.

Experts from the Global Fund say that Europe's aid should target where the epidemic is: its neighbors.

'The EU says that the Global Fund should only finance the countries that have the least ability to pay. But the HIV epidemic does not go parallel with poverty. You have poor countries that have no HIV problems. We are fighting the diseases, we are not fighting poverty here', said Global Fund leading expert in Eastern Europe Nicolas Cantau.

The Global Fund is an international body dedicated to preventing and treating HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The EU has supported the institution since its creation in 2002 with a contribution of over 1 billion euros so far.