AIDS 2010 To Highlight Epidemic In Eastern Europe, Central Asia Regions

AIDS 2010, the International AIDS Conference to be held July 18-23 in Vienna, Austria, will “highlight the situation in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, regions experiencing fast growing [HIV/AIDS] epidemics largely through unsafe injecting drug use,” conference organizers announced Wednesday, Agence France-Presse reports. Though the number of new HIV cases worldwide has been on the decline, “infection rates are continuing to rise in some parts of the world, especially Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Here, HIV prevalence has almost doubled since 2001,” the AFP writes.

“To break the trajectory of the HIV epidemic in Eastern Europe, we must stop new infections among injecting drug users and their partners,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said during a press briefing. “People using drugs have a right to access the best possible options for prevention, care and treatment.” According to AFP, Eastern Europe and Central Asia are home to an estimated 1.5 million people living with HIV.

“Vienna is not only the headquarters for key U.N. agencies involved in fighting drugs, but also a ‘gateway’ to eastern Europe and central Asia, said Robin Gorna, head of the International AIDS Society (IAS),” AFP writes. According to the news service, U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) chief Antonio Maria Costa said, “We can and must reverse the HIV epidemic, first of all by preventing the spread of drug use, and then by providing treatment to addicts. In this comprehensive programme, HIV-targeted measures include providing clean injecting equipment, opioid substitution, and antiretroviral therapy” (3/10).

“AIDS 2010 will bring together scientific evidence and the voices of those impacted by drug use and HIV to highlight the urgent need for broader implementation of evidence-based harm reduction initiatives, such as needle exchange programmes and opioid substitution therapy,” IAS President Julio Montaner said in an IAS press release (.pdf). “The conference will also highlight new interventions and research showing the public health impacts of expanded access to HIV treatment, including dramatic reductions in new infections among injecting drug users,” he said (3/10).

The conference “will also examine worldwide progress towards the 2010 deadline set by world leaders in the Millennium Development Goals for achieving universal access to services for the treatment of HIV/AIDS and HIV prevention,” according to a UNODC press release. An estimated 25,000 health experts, advocates, legislators and people living with the disease are expected to be in attendance at the meeting (3/10). 

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