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close this bookThe Courier N 184 - Jan - Feb 2001 - Dossier: Press and Democracy - Country Reports: St Kitts and Nevis (EC Courier, 2001, 96 p.)
close this folderThe ACP and Europe
View the documentComment by Poul Nielson, EU Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid
View the documentThe ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly

Comment by Poul Nielson, EU Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid

Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria are all diseases that kill in developing countries. And they are all exacerbated by poverty.

What can be done? First, although AIDS is the problem everyone mentions, we must urge people not to forget malaria and TB, which wreak their own particular havoc.

People must be informed about prevention, shown that it works, and convinced that not all of it is prohibitively expensive or high tech. Impregnated mosquito nets have been proved to be extremely successful against malaria if used correctly, and the same goes for both male and female condoms against HIV/AIDS.

Prevention must not be dismissed. What is needed is information and often, financial help.

We must, as always, work constructively together as a community, and step up the flow of disbursement to where it is needed. The European Union is a major donor - its commitments to health, AIDS and population between 1990 and 1998 amount to around €3.4 billion. The European Union and its Member States now provide more than half of all development assistance to health-related programmes around the world.

The treatment for TB costs a total of € 15. AIDS treatment costs US $30 a day, and the sufferer also needs two square meals and access to clean drinking water. This is simply out of reach in countries with US $2-300 per capita a year and with health sector spending around US $5 per capita a year. Key pharmaceutical products must become more accessible and affordable, and there is no doubt that new and better vaccines are vital. The EU and its Member States and partners can and will contribute by investing in the research institutes of developing countries, as well as funding research in developed ones.

Health will remain a priority in the future, and the EU will contribute funding and resources to health problems worldwide. Assistance has shifted from an initial focus on curative medicine and building up health infrastructure towards support for basic health services, including developing fully-fledged HIV/AIDS and reproductive health and population programmes and supporting health sector reform efforts. As part of a collaborative approach, developing countries governments and the private sector are being involved.

We must get our policy right, and make sure it is consistently and correctly applied. Some countries have had their own opinions about treatment of these diseases, others have followed advice. Uganda, for instance, has acted on clear and honest information, and is showing a decrease in the number of AIDS cases. Zimbabwe is also now following this strategy. Results like these will make all the difference.

The Commission, the WHO and UNAIDS held a high-level Round Table on transmissible diseases last September (see Page 77), to bring together stakeholders with different opinions to formulate a coherent policy for collaboration on the eradication of HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB.