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World AIDS Day: The WHO European Region has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world – World

World AIDS Day: The WHO European Region has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world – World


Statement by WHO Regional Director for Europe, Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge

Dear colleagues and friends,

In 1988 when the first World AIDS Day took place, an HIV diagnosis was tantamount to a death sentence. Today, on the 35th World AIDS Day, our world has changed for the better. With the resources and technology available to us to diagnose, treat and prevent transmission, no-one in the WHO European Region should be developing AIDS, let alone dying of it.

Yet, ironically, the WHO European Region has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world. 50% of people in the European Region receive a late diagnosis — people come to healthcare too late, and we are not managing to reach them earlier. This trend has not changed for 10 years. In a number of countries in our Region death rates are unacceptably high, in others, HIV transmission has been almost completely stopped.

Thanks to advances in medicine, HIV has become a chronic disease like any other. People on treatment can lead healthy, long lives and not transmit the virus to others. We have highly effective antiretroviral treatment — 1 pill a day without serious side effects. New diagnostic algorithms allow same-day diagnosis. Tests can be done in community settings or at home. Lastly, we have very effective means of prevention such as Pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP and — not least – condoms.

The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day is ‘Let communities lead.’ Engagement at the grassroots level is vital, people and communities must be in the driving seat – this is a key principle that cuts across the European Programme of Work, guiding what WHO/Europe does. Stigma and discrimination have no place in healthcare. Isolation and exclusion do not stop epidemics. Engagement and trust do.

I am asking everyone in the coming year — from policymakers to the health care sector and the prison sector – to advocate for action and engage community leadership in all HIV plans and programmes, to fully fund sustainable community leadership and to support civil society with robust policies.

We can — and we must – consign the burden and stigma of living with HIV to history.


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Media contacts:

Bhanu Bhatnagar, [email protected]

Stephanie Brickman, [email protected]




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