Today, at the Cabinet Meeting, the Estonian Government approved the National HIV Action Plan for the years 2017-2025, developed in cooperation of the Ministry of Social Affairs and the National Institute for Health Development. According to the Action Plan, the state aims to take vigorous steps to stop the HIV epidemic, including reducing the number of new HIV infections by more than half.
"Estonia has the highest number of new HIV infections in Europe, and this requires decisive action. In the Action Plan, we aim to reduce the incidence of new HIV cases by 2025 compared to the current situation by more than two times. It is ambitious, but we believe possible. To do this, we will further contribute to the prevention and expand HIV testing and treatment options in the coming years," said Jevgeni Ossinovski, Minister for Health and Labour. "The Ministry of Social Affairs has given the priority to the fight against HIV over the last couple of years, and the long-term action plan is another important step in this line," added the minister.
In Estonia, there are 17 new HIV cases per 100,000 inhabitants, which is the highest in the European Union. In 2016, we had in total 230 new cases in Estonia. The aim of the HIV action plan is to bring the number of new cases to the average level of the European Union, or less than 100 new cases per year.
The activities are based on the 90-90-90 targets set by the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO): 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status. 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy. 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.
"HIV is no longer just a disease of injecting drug addicts. Infections by sexual transmission and among older people have grown year by year. The problem is also the large number of people who are not aware of their infection," said Ossinovski. "With new medicines, it is possible to suppress HIV down so that it does not spread. That is why we must make an effort to get more people to test themselves, become aware of their illness and get treatment."
In 2017, so far 193 people have been diagnosed with HIV in Estonia. According to doctors, up to 25% of HIV infection carriers are not aware of their diagnosis.
The Action Plan focuses on four main directions of action - HIV testing, treatment, prevention and monitoring. The action plan covers activities under the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of the Interior.
- Over the last couple of years, funding for HIV and drug addiction management services, HIV prevention and medicines has been increased. In 2016 an additional EUR 600 000 was allocated to HIV and drug addiction management services, and in April 2017 additional HIV prevention funding was increased by EUR 500 000.
- With this money, the availability of treatment and harm reduction services for HIV-positive and addicted drug users has been expanded. Integrated ARV and substitution treatment for opioid dependence in Ida-Viru County has begun, opportunities for expanded inpatient addiction treatment have been improved, as well as improved access to HIV-positive case management services. In addition, with the support of the Estonian Infectious Diseases Society, HIV treatment guidelines are being developed.
- The government's approved state budget strategy for 2018-2021 foresees EUR 5 million in addition to HIV / AIDS medicines. In 2018, the government will allocate estimated EUR 15 million in total for HIV medicines.