Speech by Commissioner Stella Kyriakides at the World AIDS Day Event on HIV Outcomes at the European Parliament
"Check against delivery"
Ladies and gentlemen,
I thank HIV Outcomes for bringing us together at this important event, marking World AIDS Day and looking at ending HIV in Europe. As you all know, EU action against HIV/AIDS has a long history, but more still has to be done.
Today, a positive HIV test is no longer a death sentence.
Thanks to great medical progress, HIV is now better compared to a chronic condition, and people with HIV can live long, healthy lives.
This is a major achievement.
However, HIV remains a public health challenge at global and European level, especially in a multi-crisis situation, where health care systems are under pressure in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and financial and geopolitical unrest.
Greater life expectancy for people living with HIV comes with new needs in terms of treatment and care.
Comorbidities and long-term health conditions will be challenges, our healthcare systems need to be ready for. Improving long-term care and well-being is a complex endeavour that requires multiple expertise, which we, together with Member States, but also international partners such as WHO Europe, are aiming to address.
Health related quality of life is a key priority across our work on health, and an important component in our overall work and reflexion on demographic change and health longevity.
We need to factor in the positive increase in life expectancy for diseases such as HIV and cancer in our work as well as other communicable and non-communicable diseases.
We need to invest more in improving long-term care and well-being as part of a Strong European Health Union. Particularly important are the national Recovery and Resilience Plans, which provide about €43 billion for health-related actions in Member States. Also, the EU4Health programme funds projects and activities focusing on integrating treatment and care, ensuring access, integrated diagnosis and care management as well as supporting civil society for their specific involvement in the response against communicable diseases.
In our European Health Union we put patients at the centre. Solidarity and coordination are our guiding principles.
Central among our priorities, is to ensure access to medicines and the same chance to get treated for all. Addressing inequalities was also the focus of my intervention of last year's HIV Outcomes event.
This has a big impact also on the topic we address today.
In 2021, around 17 000 new HIV infections were reported in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. Around 1 900 people were diagnosed with AIDS.
These figures show that there is still work to do. Especially as HIV often affects population groups who are already in more vulnerable situations, such as migrants, men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs.
We also need to understand and address the stigma and discrimination experienced by people living with HIV, including in healthcare settings.
This has been a priority of the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and one that I fully support.
Stigma – or the fear of stigma – can even prevent people from getting tested for HIV. This means that they may miss opportunities for treatment and care, and that they may unknowingly transmit the virus to others.
Fighting stigma is therefore not only a matter of improving the health and quality of life of people living with HIV. It is also a matter of halting the epidemic itself.
Infectious diseases do not stop at borders, as we know all too well.
That is why we are taking concrete steps at European and national level to ensure that ending HIV remains a priority in Europe, and that the needs of people living with HIV are addressed.
Also, self-assessment tools measuring health-related quality of life to capture multi-dimensional issues, challenging well-being for people living with a long-term condition, are becoming increasingly important.
We also work closely with the WHO and support EU Member States in reaching Target 3.3 of the Sustainable Developments Goals on the global action to end epidemics of HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases by 2030.
Furthermore, our Public Health Expert Group brings together experts from EU Member States, Norway and Iceland to advise us and transfer of best practices on communicable diseases.
Fighting stigma towards people living with HIV also features in our first comprehensive approach to mental health, which we launched this summer and I thank stakeholders for their valuable contributions.
Much work lies ahead for us, and we must build on this positive momentum.
We will continue to work for long, healthy, and stigma-free lives for people living with HIV.
And we will continue to champion equality for all, as we strive to end HIV in Europe and beyond.