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HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States: meeting the challenge - facts and policy options

Tony Barnett (lead author)
United Nations Development Programme (February 2004)

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launches a new report this week [Tuesday 17 February] on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. 

The study offers HIV/AIDS profiles for 28 countries in the region, describes the high-risk groups and the behaviors that make them vulnerable to infection, and offers policy advice to effectively deal with the disease. The report warns policy-makers of the risks of inaction.

Running through this United Nations Development Programme Human Development report is a simple message: without an immediate, accelerated and significantly scaled up response by governments and other actors, HIV/AIDS risks undermining and even reversing human development gains across the countries of Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. 

Mounting such a response will be difficult, but far from impossible. By drawing on experience and knowledge from other parts of the world, and by using new financing mechanisms such as the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria, there is every chance we will succeed in stemming the spread of the epidemic and containing its impact in the region. But that will only happen if the countries of the region first take direct action themselves, focusing their own political and economic policies and resources more clearly and explicitly on this growing problem.

This report details the available data on HIV/AIDS in Central and Eastern Europe and the CIS. It explains the causes of the epidemic in this region and offers policy options to halt the spread of the disease. While former communist countries harbour the fastest growing rates of infection in the world, paradoxically the region also has the most potential to reverse the trend with relative ease. This report explains why, and what policy choices are needed to stop the epidemic from becoming even more devastating and costly.

AIDS threatens the fabric of society and pushes governance and health care systems to limits they have not yet faced. Addressing the behavioural and socio-economic factors that determine vulnerability requires coordinated actions by many individuals and organisations, directed toward a common goal. AIDS cannot be conquered through the sort of 'command and control' approaches that have traditionally shaped public policy in the region. Instead, the creation of open, democratic, inclusive environments where comprehensive, multisectoral policies and innovative partnerships build trust and reduce stigma is essential to turning back the epidemic.

Policy makers, academics, civil society leaders, government officials, civil servants, business and community leaders, and, in general, all those involved in combating the AIDS epidemic, or those who are just curious about what can be done about it, will find this report of interest. 

Professor Tony Barnett, ESRC Professorial Research Fellow, DESTIN, LSE, is a lead author and researcher for this publication. 

Ends

This report will be launched in Moscow on Tuesday 17 February by Mr Mark Malloch Brown, UN under-secretary general and UNDP administrator. The report can be viewed online at http://www.undp.sk/HIV|/

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