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18-23 July 2010, Vienna
Rights Here, Right Now — International AIDS conference, Vienna 18–23 July 2010

The 18th International AIDS conference (AIDS 2010) takes place in Vienna from 18–23 July 2010. The conference is the main platform for those working in the field of HIV — including scientists, policymakers and persons living with HIV — to exchange views on the current state of the global HIV problem, access to treatment and prevention programmes.

The slogan of the 2010 AIDS conference, ‘Rights Here, Right Now’, emphasises protecting the human rights of those living with, or most vulnerable to, HIV, including the right to health care and access to all scientifically sound HIV interventions. At the conference, a group of leading scientists presented the ‘Vienna declaration’, a statement urging governments and international bodies to make drug and HIV policies evidence-based and, specifically, to end the counterproductive effects of law- enforcement-based drug policies on the health of illicit drug users.

The conference focuses on the HIV problem in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, a region with one of the fastest growing epidemics in the world — primarily due to injecting drug use and limited access to proper health care — and where injecting drug use is highly criminalised.

The EMCDDA is playing an active role in the conference. Invited by the European Commission to address the issue of HIV and drugs policies in Europe, including Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the EMCDDA stressed the need to better integrate these, often conflicting, policies. For example, law-enforcement-based drug policies, which are frequent in Eastern Europe, often act as a strong deterrent for IDUs to access essential services such as HIV treatment, opioid substitution treatment and needle and syringe programmes. The EMCDDA also stressed the need to increase the coverage of, and combine, these interventions, and to address population-level co-morbidities such as viral hepatitis, TB and overdose.

The EMCDDA has contributed to various studies presented during the conference, including a pilot study in Poland on HIV testing and undiagnosed infections in drug users and a UNODC prison situation assessment toolkit.

In the session ‘Leaders against criminalisation of sex work, sodomy, drug use or possession and HIV transmission’, the Chairman of the EMCDDA Management Board, João Goulão gave a presentation on the need for the decriminalisation of drug users and for their acceptance as patients in need of treatment. This is based on the experience in Portugal where drug use and possession were decriminalised in 2001.

In view of the Vienna conference, the European Parliament (EP) adopted a resolution on HIV/AIDS. The EP called on the Commission and Council to honour their commitments and to intensify their efforts to deal with the problem of HIV/AIDS as a worldwide public health priority. It called for prevention, treatment, care and assistance to combat AIDS to be geared to human rights and to be part of the European Union's development cooperation. It urged the Commission and Council to support the efforts made to decriminalise the transmission of HIV/AIDS and invited the Baltic States, Russia and Ukraine to establish policies allowing a robust fight against HIV/AIDS in their respective countries.

The European Commission has put forward a communication combating HIV/AIDS, which focuses on three key at-risk populations: men who have sex with men; injecting drug users; and migrants. In addition, it urges more focus on priority regions, including Eastern Europe and neighbouring countries.

Page last updated: Thursday, 22 July 2010