Ministers discuss EU’s HIV/AIDS prevention strategy

“As we are currently unable to heal AIDS, we have to focus our efforts on preventing infection,” argued German Health Minister Ulla Schmidt at a ministerial conference on HIV/AIDS.

A ministerial conference ‘Partnership and Responsibility – Together Against HIV/AIDS’ will take place 12-13 March under the auspice of the German EU Presidency, which chose HIV/AIDS as its main health policy topic for its six-month rotating EU Council Presidency. 

“We want to discuss what the next concrete steps are that we must take to prevent HIV/AIDS from spreading further,” said Ulla Schmidt, adding that not only the area of health policy, but also research, education, economic and development co-operation policy needed to be considered. However, she pointed out that as no vaccine against AIDS yet exists, European efforts should focus on preventing infection. 

“Here in western Europe the disease is being wrongly played down in a manner that unfortunately has an impact on people’s conduct,” Schmidt added. 

report by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) will serve as background to the ministerial conference. It highlights the need to increase the uptake of voluntary HIV testing and counselling to reduce the number of HIV-infected persons who are not aware of their infection. 

The ECDC report also argues that preventive actions should mainly target the areas and populations at higher risk. Baltic States (in particular Estonia and Latvia), men having sex with men and migrants from high-prevalence countries are identified as the major areas/populations in need for targeted preventive actions.  

According to the German Presidency, co-operation with civil-society groups has proven the best way to reach high-risk groups, as organisations active in the fight against AIDS have better access to drug users and prison inmates, for example. 

Germany is currently also the president of the the Group of Eight (G8) industrialised nations and has indicated the need to strengthen African healthcare systems, with the fight against HIV/AIDS being one of its main concerns.

Further Reading