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18th HIV/AIDS Civil Society Forum in Luxembourg

We gathered in Luxembourg 9 to 12 December, to exchange information, discuss and influence the future of HIV/AIDS policy in Europe. The highlights:

Interim HIV Action Plan for the region
As the current EU HIV/AIDS Commission Communication is coming to an end, an interim Action Plan is developed by the European Commission as an interim framework, while options for a potential future policy framework are further worked upon. We made clear that the EU Action Plan still needs improvements; for example, specific budgeting, a timeline and the relevant indicators need to be worked out. Even though we appreciate the reasoning behind the decision to update the EU Action plan, we still strongly want to see a more formal new Commission communication on combatting HIV/AIDS. It is a strong advocacy instrument for civil society and a signal of sustained commitment of policy makers.

EU Conference on 10 years Dublin Declaration
We discussed our strong desire to have the Italian government commit to an EU conference on 10 years of the Dublin Declaration. Due to the financial crisis, the context of HIV/AIDS has dramatically changed with regard to cuts of health budgets and issues about sustainability of the financing of health system responds to HIV. Political commitment, more than ever, is vital for effective responses to the threats of HIV and other diseases such as TB, hepatitis and other STI. Bringing together policy makers, politicians and civil society to discuss present and upcoming challenges is a tremendous opportunity to plan for future challenges. We heard that the EU commission would principally back such an event.

Dire Funding
Not for the first time, the dire funding situation of the HIV response was an important agenda point. We are very worried about the pulling out by the Global Fund from specific regions in the Eastern European and Central Asian region. There does not seem to be any reassuring signs that national governments are taking up the required funding of vital projects once the GF stops its funding. Also within the EU region, funding challenges can be foreseen. We need to make sure that the health response in the EU can remain sustainable. Affordable treatments, fairer pricing, generic issues and better procurement mechanisms are just some of the issues that need to be addressed.

HIV testing initiatives
We got an update on different HIV testing initiatives in Europe such as the European HIV testing week and the COBA-Test study. Taking into account such facts as that more than 50% of the new HIV diagnoses in Europe are late presenters, it is obvious that improved HIV testing services is a must. Especially innovative community-based testing services should be further developed. Moreover, we discussed the importance of developing innovative non-medical HIV testing services. Civil society wants to be seen not just as organisations, which are good at distributing information, but also as organisations, competent at delivering high quality services.

Download the full meeting report and all the presentations here

Harry Witzthum
Executive Director Swiss Aids Federation

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