Remarks given at Sixty-sixth session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe in Copenhagen, September 14, 2016
Madame Chair, Madame Director General,
I would like to thank the Regional Office for framing and drafting what I consider a relevant, comprehensive and strong action plan for the health sector response to HIV in the region.
I would also wish to thank you, Mme Regional Director, for your leadership and your call on day 1 of this meeting, for member states to urgently address the AIDS crisis in Europe.
The plan of action that is submitted for approval is fully in line with the approved WHO Global Health sector strategy on HIV, with the UNAIDS strategy and with the ultimate objectives of the political declaration adopted at the High Level Meeting on AIDS in June this year in New York.
We rightly celebrate successes in the region in decreasing and eliminating vertical transmission of HIV. But this cannot and should not take our attention away from the fact that Europe, and primarily the Eastern part of the continent, remains the only region of the world where the HIV epidemic continues to grow.
In Eastern Europe and central Asia, the number of newly HIV cases has increased by 57% in the last five years (more than 70 % since 2005), while incidence and AIDS-related mortality have decreased by 30-40 % globally in the last ten years.
HIV, in addition, is inextricably linked with TB, MDR TB and hepatitis C in the region. And as delegates would know, the wide extent of drug resistance in Eastern Europe represents a critical challenge to TB control, as reflected in low treatment success rates.
Dear colleagues delegates, it is essential that we fully recognize that HIV and TB/MDR TB continue to be ongoing epidemic health emergencies in the region.
The European plan of action that is submitted to you is a robust plan that complements the TB plan of action for 2016-2020 approved last year. I urge you to approve it. As the Secretary General’s Special Envoy, I urge you to intensify access to effective prevention and to treatment for the many people in need in the region, with a strong focus on vulnerable populations, to remain committed and refuse complacency. I urge the regional office to strengthen its capacity for HIV and TB at country and regional levels.
Europe cannot persist in being be the epidemic exception in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.