To coincide with our commemoration of the event the European Parliament passed a report on the EU’s response to HIV/AIDS. One of the major problems we highlighted was that around 30% of people with the virus are unaware that they carry it. Obviously this makes their risk of transmitting HIV to someone else much higher.
We need to increase testing amongst at-risk groups such as young people, men who have sex with men, injecting drug users, sex workers and prisoners. And more action on tackling stigma and discrimination is needed. People living with HIV/AIDS should be included in all equality and anti-discriminatory legislation.
To achieve this we need better sexual health strategies, including more honest and upfront sex education and accessible sexual health clinics. It’s a disturbing fact that HIV diagnoses in young people have increased by 70% since 2000. Education in schools is crucial to tackle this, but it’s not always effective. Teaching the biology of HIV in science classes is just not good enough; we need to equip our young people with the knowledge to protect themselves. The National AIDS Trust is campaigning to make Sex and Relationships education compulsory in the national curriculum. Young people need to understand the social dimensions of relationships and above all, they need to be able to talk about the issues of stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV.
We also need to maintain the drive towards finding new treatments, possible vaccines or cures for HIV and AIDS. Next year we’ll be revising the Clinical Trials Directive and I’ll be making sure that the new law is much better at encouraging and supporting life-saving research.
Today I proudly wore my red ribbon in the hope that we can end the stigma, stop the rising infection rates and find a cure for this devastating disease soon.