Merkel: EU Needs to Do More to Combat AIDS | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 13.03.2007
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Merkel: EU Needs to Do More to Combat AIDS

Against a backdrop 40 million HIV infections around the world, EU officials met in Bremen to discuss measures to combat the pandemic.

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Merkel said more international cooperation was needed in the fight against HIV/AIDS

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on the international community Monday to take more effective measures to combat the spread of AIDS.

"The struggle against the disease is a task for all of mankind and should not be treated as a problem for individual nations," she told an AIDS conference attended by EU health ministers in Bremen.

Merkel said Germany would see to it that the fight against AIDS is on the summit agendas of the EU and Group of Eight industrial nations (G8) in June. Germany is currently president of both groups and Merkel has also said that Africa would be a focal point of the presidencies.

Borderless disease

EU-AIDS Konferenz in Bremen

Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, left, and Ulla Schmidt, right, pledged action

Opening the two-day meeting, German Health Minister Ulla Schmidt also called on the European Union to do more to rein in the disease.

The goal, she said, should be to have better preventive measures and affordable treatment across Europe.

"The HIV virus doesn't stop at borders," Schmidt said. "High rates of infection in one country have a knock-on effect in neighboring states."

Noting that there was no cure for AIDS, she said it was important to concentrate efforts on ways to prevent people becoming infected with the disease and to push harder for a vaccine.

Schmidt told Reuters she was in discussions with key players in the pharmaceutical industry regarding the price of AIDS medications.

"We want to ensure that there is access to prevention and affordable treatment everywhere in Europe and enable all those infected in Europe to live their lives without being stigmatized or discriminated against," she said before the conference. "This epidemic has not only caused great human suffering but also threatens economic and social development and affects the political stability of entire regions."

A global disaster

German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul called AIDS a "global disaster" and said the only way to beat the disease was for the international community to work together.

Marktplatz in Kumba in Kamerun

Merkel pledged to make Africa a focus of her G8 presidency

Both ministers called for closer cooperation among aid organizations working with the disease, which has affected around 40 million people around the world, 25 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa alone.

There are around 56,000 infected with the AIDS virus in Germany. Officials said there were about 2,700 new infections last year, 200 more than in 2005.

Also taking part in the Bremen conference are Peter Piot, director of the UN agency UNAIDS, as well as health experts and representatives of non-governmental organizations.

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