World AIDS Day is marked on 1 December every year, with 2017 being the 29th year the day has been held at global level. Fighting HIV and AIDS has been, and remains, a huge effort involving countless organisations, and the EU has played a full part in that battle.
Infection with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) causes a person’s immune system to deteriorate, making them vulnerable to often life-threatening opportunistic infections. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is the most advanced stage of HIV infection. Although HIV/AIDS does not yet have a cure, it is treatable and preventable: antiretroviral medicines can slow progression of the virus in the body to a near halt, and even reduce the risk of transmission. Measures such as practising safer sex or using sterile needles and syringes help avoid HIV infection and prevent AIDS.
Yet, despite all efforts and successes – the number of AIDS cases has steadily declined in the EU since the 1990s – HIV transmission remains a problem in Europe and neighbouring countries (i.e. the World Health Organization’s European region, spanning Europe and Central Asia), especially the eastern parts of the region.
Two bodies set up by the European Commission, the HIV/AIDS Think Tank and HIV/AIDS Civil Society Forum, aim to strengthen cooperation between the EU and its neighbourhood and to foster the involvement of NGOs and other stakeholders. EU policy also focuses on prevention and supporting people living with HIV/AIDS. A three-year joint action (HA‑REACT), launched in January 2016 with funding from the EU Health programme, is geared towards preventing HIV, viral hepatitis and tuberculosis among people who inject drugs. The EU is also financing HIV/AIDS projects under the EU’s programme for research and innovation, Horizon 2020. One such example is EHVA, a platform for the discovery of prophylactic and therapeutic HIV vaccines.
For more information, see the European Commission’s website on HIV/AIDS.