Belgium launches HIV plan

Photo Belga

(From left) Ms Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe; Her Majesty Queen Mathilde of Belgium; Ms Laurette Onkelinx, Federal Minister of Social Affairs and Health of Belgium

On 15 October 2013, Her Majesty Queen Mathilde of Belgium; Ms Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe; Mr Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); and Ms Laurette Onkelinx, Federal Minister of Social Affairs and Health of Belgium, launched the Belgian HIV Plan 2014–2019.

The Plan has three goals, which are fully aligned with the WHO European Action Plan for HIV/AIDS 2012–2015:

  • to reduce new cases of HIV infection while promoting the conditions for healthy and responsible sexuality;
  • to encourage access to specialized HIV services and programmes for prevention, screening, care and quality support, within the framework of universal access to health care; and
  • to reduce all forms of stigma and discrimination, particularly those based on serostatus or health.

Ms Jakab commended Ms Onkelinx for leading the development of the Plan, and bringing together all ministers with health in their portfolios, to ensure that implementation is coordinated across the whole country. The Plan was developed in consultation with national and local stakeholders and civil-society groups, including people living with HIV.

“Belgium acted early and has been swift to respond to HIV since the 1980s. It has developed antidiscrimination laws and ensured access to treatment for all. The country’s fast response – to control the epidemic among drug injectors and to implement harm-reduction strategies recommended by WHO – means that today very few cases of HIV result from drug injection,” said Ms Jakab.

The prevalence of HIV is low among the general Belgian population, with cases concentrated in two key vulnerable populations: men who have sex with men, and migrants.

WHO is rolling out its new “Consolidated guidelines on the use of antiretroviral drugs for treating and preventing HIV infection”, which expands the eligibility criteria for those receiving antiretroviral treatment. Belgium has already followed many of the new recommendations.