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Stepping up prevention of AIDS in Europe

Speaking on the occasion of World AIDS Day (1 December 1997), Mr. Padraig Flynn, Commissioner responsible for employment and social affairs (including public health matters), stressed the importance of prevention in combating this disease.

Epidemiologists estimate that some 3...
Speaking on the occasion of World AIDS Day (1 December 1997), Mr. Padraig Flynn, Commissioner responsible for employment and social affairs (including public health matters), stressed the importance of prevention in combating this disease.

Epidemiologists estimate that some 30,000 people continue to be infected each year by the HIV virus in the EU. The European Union (EU) currently has some 500,000 HIV-infected people and just over 180,000 cases of full blown AIDS have been reported since the start of the epidemic - three quarters of these by three countries, Spain, France and Italy. Given these figures, Mr. Flynn underlined the importance of continued efforts for the prevention of AIDS.

The Community programme for the prevention of AIDS and certain other communicable diseases (1996-2000) supports Member States' action in the areas of:

- Epidemiological monitoring of HIV and AIDS;
- The fight against transmission, targeting in particular high risk behaviour (prostitution, drug abuse, prison environment, unprotected sex, etc);
- Information and education of the public, particularly young people;
- Support for affected people and eliminating discrimination.

Commissioner Flynn pointed out that "the action of the Community and the Member States on prevention has already produced results and slowed down the spread of the epidemic in the European Union". He also outlined priorities for Community action in 1998:

- Improving the European system of epidemiological monitoring of HIV infection in order to better adapt prevention strategy;
- Stepping up the information and prevention campaign in order to bring down the number of new cases of infection;
- Promote detection, on a voluntary and confidential basis, at an early stage of the infection in order to reduce transmission and initiate treatment.

Antiviral treatments, particularly combination therapy, have in the past year produced a significant decline in the number of deaths caused by AIDS in the EU. Mr. Flynn expressed his concern, however, that the hope and the real improvement these treatments have brought should not prompt a reduction in efforts to prevent sexual transmission and syringe-related transmission among drug abusers.

According to the recently published report by the European Commission, UN-AIDS and the World Bank, there are at present 30 million people in the world who are infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Over 90% of them live in the developing countries and two-thirds of these in sub-Saharan Africa.
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