BERN, Switzerland – By 2030 HIV/AIDS should no longer be a threat to public health. This is the message of the Swiss delegation to the 2016 High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS, which takes place on 8-10 June at the UN headquarters in New York. It thereby supports the adopted political declaration on HIV/AIDS, which requires measures against the epidemic to be intensified in the coming five years. The negotiations for the High-Level Meeting were led by Switzerland and Zambia, a country especially hard hit by HIV/AIDS, on behalf of the president of the UN General Assembly.
With regard to the fight against HIV/AIDS, the international community is currently at a crossroads. Thanks to worldwide efforts, it is now understood what needs to be done to ensure that HIV/AIDS will no longer be a threat to public health by 2030. Scientists agree that this objective can be met if measures to fight HIV/AIDS are further strengthened in the next five years. More has to be invested in prevention, and more people must have access to HIV testing and drugs. If this does not happen there is a risk that the epidemic will again spread rapidly. The seven-member Swiss delegation representing Switzerland’s positions in New York is participating in efforts to ensure that measures against HIV/AIDS are intensified. The delegation is headed by Tania Dussey-Cavassini, assistant director of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), and is composed of representatives of the FOPH, the Directorate of Political Affairs (PD) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) within the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), as well as of civil society (Medicus Mundi).
Switzerland is pursing several main positions in New York: It is promoting the acceleration and expansion of measures to fight HIV/AIDS. In addition, prevention must remain at the centre of the fight against HIV/AIDS to prevent new infections. Furthermore, Switzerland is working to ensure that HIV/AIDS services are systematically integrated into national health systems to strengthen them, and that services are better designed to meet the needs of young people, women and other population groups that are especially affected by HIV/AIDS, such as men who have sex with men, and people who inject drugs. Lastly, Switzerland calls for human rights to be consistently respected and that all affected persons, regardless of age, sex, residence status or sexual orientation have access to HIV/AIDS services. To be successful, however, cooperation among governments and within the international community is decisive as well as partnerships with non-governmental organisations, especially civil society.
According to current estimates, almost 37 million people in the world are HIV positive. The SDC supports programmes in regions such as southern Africa that have been especially hard hit by the AIDS epidemic. As a result, in 2015 alone, 1.9 million young people gained access to preventive measures in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights, incl. HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, Switzerland supports globally active organisations such as the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and is actively involved on their boards. This year, Switzerland is chairing the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board.
In Switzerland, about 15,000 people are living with HIV. Every year between 500 and 600 people test positive for HIV, with a downward trend since 2008. At the end of the 1980s, Switzerland had the highest infection rate in Europe owing to the rapidly expanding AIDS epidemic among people who inject drugs. It was possible to bring the epidemic under control by means of a comprehensive policy on drug use. Within the National Program for HIV and Other Sexually Transmitted Infections (NPHS 2011–2017), the FOPH is working closely with other federal agencies, cantonal authorities and non-governmental organisations to raise awareness among the general public particularly about HIV and STI prevention, for example though LOVE LIFE campaigns. The FOPH and its partners also work specifically with population groups that are particularly affected by or at risk of HIV/AIDS.