Ending HIV and Aids by 2030: what Europe can do?

Written by Cecile Vernant on 1 December 2016 in Opinion
Opinion

As we celebrate World Aids Day, it is important to recognise the enormous progress that has been made in fighting the disease, and it's time to redouble to our efforts, writes Cecile Vernant.

Red ribbons, the world-wide symbol for HIV/AIDS, sit on a table for World AIDSÂ Day in Berlin, Germany, 01 December 2014

As we celebrate World Aids Day today, it is important to recognise the enormous progress that has been made in fighting the disease | Photo credit: Press Association


As we celebrate World Aids Day today, it is important to recognise the enormous progress that has been made in fighting the disease. Since 2000, new HIV infections have fallen by 35 per cent, and Aids-related deaths have reduced by 28 per cent. Eight million lives have been saved from the disease in the last 16 years. 

It is also the time to redouble our efforts in eradicating the disease - as the world committed to as part of the sustainable development goals. What do we - politicians, civil society, and others - need to do to build on these achievements? 

In 2017, the European Union has a chance to make a major statement in the fight against HIV and Aids - by stepping up its support for funding for global health innovation. The European Parliament must make sure we do, pushing EU leadership on global health R&D.


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In 2015, over one million people died from HIV-related causes worldwide, and it is estimated that over two million people became newly infected with HIV. It remains a threat to millions of young people, women in particular, living in the world's poorest countries. However, the fight against HIV and Aids is still hampered by the lack of new and effective medical tools to stop it. 

There is, as yet, no effective vaccine of any kind, treatment remains out of reach of the many millions of people that need it, and ultimately there is no cure. Investing in innovation is the only way that we can fill these gaps. Europe has an opportunity to strengthen its role as a leader in the field of global health innovation in the coming 12 months, building on the successes of recent years. 

Since 2007, EU funding for global health innovation has delivered money and jobs back into the European economy. It has created 10,000 new jobs and brought in an extra 80 cents for every euro spent on global health innovation. 

Furthermore, it is starting to respond to the urgent need for new medicines, vaccines and diagnostics for poverty-related and neglected tropical diseases; for example, EU funding has contributed to the development of half of all new malaria drugs registered since 2000. 

How, then, can Europe increase its support for global health innovation, and what role will the European Parliament have in making sure it does? 

First, Europe and the EU can spend more on global health innovation; European investment in global health innovation remains lower than both its 2009 peak and the 0.01 per cent of GDP target set out by an expert group at the WHO. 

Second, to make maximum use of new funding, the EU needs a proper global health innovation strategy - supporting collaboration and coherency in investments. 

Third, the EU needs to make its funding more accessible and transparent, facilitating innovative new models of product development to respond to the urgent need for new vaccines, treatments, and diagnostic tools.

And as for the European Parliament? The EU is about to embark on an important period of review and revision of its multi-year budget, as well as an evaluation of its research programme, Horizon2020. 

These twin processes provide MEPs an opportunity to demand the EU and EU member states take global health innovation seriously, and that this seriousness is reflected financially and politically.

With time running out if we are to meet the pledge to end HIV and Aids by 2030, we expect them - and the European Union - to make the most of it. 

About the author

Cecile Vernant is head of EU office, Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung (DSW)

 

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