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Address by Ambassadors of Finland, USA and UK: Estonia must get serious about its HIV epidemic

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PHOTO: Liis Treimann/Postimees

Today, Ambassadors of the Uninet Kingdon, the United States of America and Finland filed an address to Constitutional Committee of the Parliament of Estonia wherein they call upon Estonia to at long last acknowledge the spread of the HIV epidemic and to create a select committee dedicated to solving the problem.

As addressed to Mr Kalle Laanet, Chairman of the Constitutional Committee of Parliament of Estonia:

Since the re-establishment of independence, Estonia has shown incredible and admirable progress in many fields from governance and the economy to science and education. However, despite years of steady work and effort on HIV prevention, the situation in Estonia remains gravely concerning. According to WHO standards, the spread of HIV in Estonia is classified as an epidemic and one that threatens multiple groups in society. Initially the vast majority of HIV infection derived from intravenous drug use – but in 2014 that only accounted for 23% of new HIV cases with almost half of new infections being attributed to heterosexual intercourse.

This development poses risks and challenges to every Estonian resident, their partners and friends in the International Community. Tourists are obviously a particular risk group.

Much work has been done by the WHO and Estonian doctors, MD students, patients’ organisations, the Ministry of Social Affairs and the National Institute for Health Development to tackle this epidemic. Estonia has all the tools, i.e. people and organisations to take HIV prevention to the next level. Increased leadership at a legislative level would ensure that the challenges are addressed systematically and openly. Our Governments are committed to engagement and practical support for Estonian efforts to address this acute humanitarian issue, and we welcome the decision to nominate a Riigikogu Special Commission which recognises the importance of the challenge.

So far HIV/AIDS has been one of numerous topics of importance for the Riigikogu’s Social Affairs Commission and we recognise that it is difficult for the Commission to favour one topic over another. Having a Special Commission to oversee and coordinate projects and programmes on HIV/AIDS prevention has many benefits including coordination which would guarantee that any resources whether from Estonian government or international support, would be used in the most efficient manner. A Special Commission would also send a strong political message that combating the HIV epidemic is a priority for this country; for the medical and social services, the Riigikogu and the Government. Public acknowledgement is in itself one of the most important steps which can be taken to tackle the disease.

Be assured that the Governments which the undersigned represent will continue to work hard on this issue by undertaking and supporting projects and raising public awareness. We pledge to support actively and we are ready to meet and bring our experts to the Special Commission.

UK Finland US

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