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Press Release

European Commission, World Health Organization and Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS Take a United Stand Against Killer Diseases

September 28, 2000

Brussels -- Today the European Commission, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) announce a common stand against the epidemics of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in the developing world. The Commission is convening a high-level Round Table in Brussels, co-sponsored by WHO and UNAIDS, as a first step in designing a new programme of action for the EU to help developing countries to confront the growing epidemics of these three diseases and break the cycle of disease and poverty.

At their recent meeting in Okinawa, the G8 leaders made a commitment to intensifying the international community's response to HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Success will require new partnerships, more resources and new approaches to addressing disease and poverty reduction. The Commission, WHO and UNAIDS are determined to play a major role in this response.

"We in Europe can all too easily forget that good health and wellbeing are not the norm for most people in this world. Developing countries, where most poor people live, are suffering under the double burden of poverty combined with an explosion in three communicable diseases: HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. One of these diseases -- malaria -- we thought we had come near to eradicating in some parts of the developing world. Another, HIV/AIDS, has only more recently emerged as a major killer. Associated with AIDS, tuberculosis is killing more poor people than ever before. I want to see the EU playing a larger and more effective role in assisting developing countries to confront these epidemics," said the President of the Commission, Mr Romano Prodi.

"The landscape in which we work is changing. We meet in Brussels at a time of unprecedented international support for reducing poverty. And at a time when health takes its rightful place at centre stage in the development arena. We have always known that poor people suffer disproportionately from the ravages of communicable diseases. But we now know that HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis are themselves major causes of poverty. The success or failure of our collective response to these threats holds the key to the economic security -- not just of individuals and communities -- but of nations and continents," said Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, WHO Director-General.

"The HIV/AIDS epidemic presents us with challenges quite unlike any other. It threatens to undermine decades of hard-won development, not only in health, but in education, economic progress and human rights. Indeed, it has become a fully fledged development crisis, that faces us all. I therefore applaud the Commission on this new initiative which puts HIV, along with malaria and TB, at the heart of the strategy to address poverty. UNAIDS and its Cosponsors stand ready to work with the Commission in every way to make this new venture a success," added Dr. Peter Piot, UNAIDS Executive Director.

Last week, the Commission adopted a new policy framework on accelerated action targeted at these three communicable diseases in the context of poverty reduction. The policy framework describes a coherent set of approaches the Commission will take to improve the impact of existing interventions, increase the affordability of drugs and products to prevent and treat these diseases, and increase investment in research to find new solutions, such as vaccines for malaria and HIV/AIDS.

This policy framework provides the basis for the discussions at the international Round Table.

High-level representatives from more than twenty-five developing countries, leaders of industry, research agencies and NGOs, will consult with President Prodi, Commissioner Poul Nielson, five other Commissioners and WHO and UNAIDS to design a programme of action to reduce the health and economic impacts of these three diseases and help millions of families in the developing world break the cycle of poverty and ill-health.

Mr Poul Nielson, Commissioner for Development Co-operation and Humanitarian Aid, is responsible for the organisation of the Round Table. "Whilst continuing our support for national health systems, the Commission will seek to expand access by the poor to the means of protecting themselves from infection with HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, improve the affordability of diagnosis and care for these diseases, and move investment in priority research increasingly towards finding long term solutions, such as a vaccine to prevent AIDS. Prevention amongst the youth and information are also priorities," said Commissioner Nielson.

The Round Table will be opened by the Commission's President, Mr Romano Prodi; the Honourable Dr Pascoal Mocumbi, Prime Minister of Mozambique; Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, WHO Director-General and Dr Peter Piot, UNAIDS Executive Director. Commissioners Poul Nielson (Development and Humanitarian Aid), Philippe Busquin (Research), David Byrne (Health and Consumer Protection), and Pascal Lamy (Trade), will discuss the orientations of the Commission's intended actions. Representatives from the Governments of Brazil, India, Senegal, Swaziland, Uganda and Zambia will also speak. The French Presidency of the EU will be represented by Mr Charles Josselin, Ministre délégué chargé de la Coopération et de la Francophonie, who will close the meeting.

The Commission hopes that the Round Table will be an important step in the process of mapping out a sizeable long term programme of action for the Commission to support in tackling poverty and HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. The President of the Commission intends to announce the programme, and the resources which will be allocated to it, at the forthcoming December follow-up consultation to the Okinawa G8 meeting.

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This article was provided by UNAIDS. Visit UNAIDS' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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