Dutch HIV AIDS prevention policy successful

Yesterday, development minister Bert Koenders opened Holland House at the International Aids Conference in Mexico City. Holland House is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, STI Aids Netherlands and Stop Aids Now! The aim is to publicise Dutch policy on HIV/AIDS.

For the first time in twenty-five years, there has been a drop in the number of deaths from AIDS. In various countries, fewer people are becoming infected with HIV, especially young people and new-born babies. ‘This shows that the enormous effort the Netherlands has been making is yielding results, and that with Dutch taxpayers’ money many thousands of lives have been saved. This is effective development aid. I firmly support efforts to curb the feminisation of the epidemic, break through taboos and fight homophobia. And I am a firm believer in the benefits of needle exchange programmes for drug addicts. Prevention, prevention and even more prevention – that is the way forward. Because prevention is better than cure. We have not yet won the battle against HIV/AIDS. Worldwide, more than thirty million people are HIV positive, and another two and a half million people are infected with HIV each year. In the past year, more than two million people died needlessly from AIDS. So there can be no let up in our efforts,’ Mr Koenders said.

Right from the start of the epidemic, the Netherlands has been one of the most influential parties in the war on AIDS, in terms of both programmes and funding. At both national and international level, the Netherlands works closely with other governments, civil society organisations, researchers and people living with HIV. Prevention is key to the Dutch approach. Everyone is entitled to a healthy life and to protection from HIV. That is why it is of the greatest importance to provide people with the right information, and with the resources they need to prevent infection. The Netherlands also focuses specifically on groups that are discriminated against in many countries – drug users, prostitutes, migrants and homosexual men.

In Africa, women and young people are now bearing the brunt of the epidemic. Every day in Southern Africa, four times more young women than men contract the virus. The Netherlands is therefore focusing on these vulnerable groups in the countries concerned. An effective example of Dutch policy is to supply affordable female condoms, so that women can protect themselves against HIV. This is one of the initiatives launched in the wake of the Pact of Schokland.

‘Prevention also makes economic sense,’ said Mr Koenders. 'Three million people are now receiving ARV treatment, at great expense. And in the years to come the costs will rise. If we do not do all we can to prevent more people from becoming infected with HIV, we will simply not be able to afford treatment for all the people who will need it. So prevention is ultimately cheaper. But we also fund treatment programmes. Thanks in part to the Netherlands, the proportion of people in Africa living with HIV who receive ARVs has grown to 28%.’