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EU launches HIV action plan

Aims to "significantly contribute" to elimination of HIV in EU by 2020
EU

A three-year project to address the gaps and discrepancies in existing HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and viral hepatitis prevention has been launched in Europe.

The European Union's Joint Action on HIV and Co-infection Prevention and Harm Reduction (HA-REACT) will initially focus on Latvia, Lithuania and Hungary with a view to preparing guidelines and toolkits for the rest of the EU.

Mika Salminen, HA-REACT coordinator and director of the department for infectious disease at Finland's National Institute for Health and Welfare, said that the project was "a real opportunity to eliminate debilitating infections among vulnerable people in Europe within a decade".

He added: "By working together the HA-REACT partners and the EU Commission will support the focus countries to achieve this goal."

The initiative, which will also focus on the treatment for people who inject drugs (PWID), will ultimately be implemented across 18 EU member states, working with a range of partners that includes the European Centre for Disease Protection and Control (ECDC).

HA-REACT wants to focus on member states with "obvious gaps in effective and evidence-informed interventions".

It also aims to implement a harm reduction programme as part an EU-wide strategy for the improvement of prevention and treatment of HIV, TB and viral hepatitis.

HA-REACT outlined its plans at a meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania earlier this month.

Dr Emilis Subata, director of the Vilnius Centre for Addictive Disorders, said the project will "build alliances among government institutions, municipalities and NGOs in improving the EU-wide response to HIV, TB and viral hepatitis among people who inject drugs".

The Word Health Organization last year voiced its "serious concern" about the HIV situation in Europe, announcing that the number of new HIV cases in the region hit its highest ever level in 2014.

HIV infection diagnosed in over 142,000 people in that year, the virus' transmission through drug injection remains substantial according to the WHO.

It also said heterosexual transmission was responsible for the increase in eastern Europe, while sex between men is the predominant mode of HIV transmission in the EU and the EEA.

For its part the WHO wants to see more early testing for HIV and in its global HIV prevention and treatment guidelines - issued last year - it suggests that all people living with HIV should be started on antiretroviral therapy.

Article by
Rebecca Clifford

22nd January 2016

From: Healthcare

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