In Europe, there were 106,508 newly reported HIV acquisitions across 46 out of 53 European countries in 2021, with approximately 15.6% occurring in the European Union and the European Economic Area (EU/EEA) countries.¹
Tremendous progress has been made in developing effective treatments and prevention options. However, the HIV acquisition rate remains stagnant and disproportionally affects key populations and people living in low- and middle-income countries.
While we have several prevention tools available, sustained and increased investments for the development of an HIV vaccine are vital: a vaccine remains the most effective prevention tool
to end HIV.
On 21 February 2022, UNITE and the IAS launched the Informal Working Group on HIV at the European Parliament. The aim is to foster international cooperation towards addressing issues and challenging thinking related to the HIV pandemic and support a global effort towards better pandemic preparedness.
¹European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, World Health Organization, HIV/AIDS surveillance in Europe 2022 : 2021 data, ECDC, 2022, https://data.europa.eu/doi/10.2900/818446
HIV stigma, discrimination, marginalization, and criminalization remain critical barriers to access treatment and prevention services, therefore slowing down the response and negatively impacting the well-being of people living with and affected by HIV. In the EU, stigma and discrimination constitute a huge burden to people living with HIV, especially gay men and other men who have sex with men, sex workers and their clients, trans people, people who inject drugs, people in prisons and other closed settings.
Increased, coordinated and sustained long-term investment in HIV research, development, and innovation, including towards the development of a globally effective HIV vaccine, must be a global health priority. Continued investment in HIV will allow for major strides in the vaccine field at large, for other infectious diseases, as it did for COVID.
Going through a pandemic of the scale of COVID-19 has highlighted the impact that infectious diseases can have on our daily lives. It is now clearer than ever that we cannot move forward in rebuilding our societies unless we place pandemic preparedness and global health security at the heart of the reconstruction, which includes the response to existing pandemics such as HIV, TB and Malaria.
Forty years on, given advancements in treatment and prevention, HIV can be perceived as a manageable chronic condition. Considering the increasing of life expectancy, it is fundamental to promote quality of life, with a patient-centred approach to HIV care. This includes services beyond HIV treatment, such as management of comorbidities, mental health and sexual and reproductive health.
HIV Prevention and treatment
Pandemic preparedness and global health security
HIV stigma and discrimination
Quality of life of people living with HIV
Currently, the working group consists of 11 MEPs who are key leaders and champions in global health, gender equality, LGBTI+ rights and harm reduction and have a proven interest in HIV public policies.
Increased, coordinated and sustained long-term investment in HIV research, development and innovation must be a global health priority. This includes working towards the development of an HIV vaccine that is effective for everyone, everywhere.
The recent discontinuation of vaccine efficacy studies is raising concerns about the future of HIV research and development, especially in the European region where the research ecosystem relies on national and supranational organizations with decreased funding opportunities.
Currently, HIV vaccine R&D relies heavily on funding from the US. It is critical to diversify funding sources to guarantee that R&D is not impacted by policy shifts.
The EU has an opportunity to contribute to this objective while enhancing its international competitiveness.
1. Strengthening European research networks and improving the necessary infrastructure are crucial for advancing science and combating other future infectious diseases.
2. Europe, with its innovation and scientific excellence, has a unique opportunity to become a global health leader, particularly in the context of HIV research.
3. It remains an essential tool for the long-term control of the epidemic on the continent, and would be a cost-effective public health intervention.
4. Investing in HIV vaccine R&D is investing in pandemic preparedness and global health security as it has proven to be critical in paving the way for the development of vaccines for other diseases.
5. It has the potential to improve global health equity, ensuring universal access to life-saving technologies, protecting vulnerable populations and reducing health disparities. These include disparities related to HIV stigma and discrimination.
For more information visit the IAS – International AIDS Society website.
Get involved and help shape the future of public health policies for HIV prevention in Europe by advocating for increased funding for HIV vaccine research.