The European Parliament strongly calls on the European Commission to step up its response to the HIV, TB and Hepatitis epidemics, developing a comprehensive and integrated policy framework to fight the 3 diseases, with a regional approach including countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The response should take into account the massive drop in international assistance to the region, ensuring sustainable transition plans are in place and health programmes are scaled-up.
On July 5, the plenary of the European Parliament in Strasbourg adopted with a large majority and with a cross-party support a key resolution on the “EU’s response to HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Viral Hepatitis”.
The resolution recognises the high burden of the three diseases in the EU and in neighbouring countries. In addition to being a health concern for European citizens and governments, these epidemics also represent a massive cost to the economy: it is estimated that multi-drug resistant tuberculosis alone will be responsible for an additional 2.1 million deaths in the continent by 2050 at an economic cost of $1.1 trillion.
The European Parliament is making a strong wake-up call to the European Commission and EU member states: there is the urgent need to develop a comprehensive policy framework addressing the three diseases jointly, taking into account specific challenges faced within the EU and in neighbouring countries, where the burden of the epidemics is the greatest. Civil society organisations have been very vocal in the past years advocating for the adoption of such a policy framework, with a European joint response to HIV, TB and Hepatitis.
The resolution also underlines the importance for the EU to play a stronger political role in the dialogue with countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, ensuring plans for sustainable transition to domestic funding are in place so that programmes fighting HIV, TB and Hepatitis are sustained and scaled-up after the withdrawal of international donors’ support.
In addition, the resolution strongly reminds the importance of strengthening the work with communities and vulnerable groups, ensuring as well the participation of NGOs for the provision of services to affected populations.
These are issues that civil society and affected communities are frequently raising as key priorities for an effective response to the epidemics: the European Parliament is showing its willingness to hear citizens’ voices and concerns.
Finally, the Parliament underlines that an adequate level of spending and resource mobilisation will be needed if we are to meet SDG 3, ending the AIDS and TB epidemics. In this regard, the resolution makes a strong call to not only increase investments in research to develop new treatments, tools and people-centred approaches to fight the diseases, but to ensure these tools are available and affordable.
This resolution is an additional step the EU institutions are taking in raising their common response to the HIV, TB and Hepatitis epidemics. As the EU Action Plan on HIV came to an end in 2016, and no specific strategy was in place to fight TB and Hepatitis, the EU is increasingly understanding the key importance to tackle the three diseases with a common and joint approach. EU member states already agreed to do so last October, during an informal gathering of Health Ministers, when they showed support to the development of an integrated policy framework on HIV, TB and Hepatitis. Today, the European Parliament is making a strong call in the same direction. Now the Commission urgently needs to take action in response to these calls.