German AIDS Action Plan Aims to Revive Awareness

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german ad campaignThe German cabinet approved a national action plan against the spread of HIV and AIDS, which focuses on increased preventive measures and research into new strains of drug-resistant viruses.

When it comes to HIV and AIDS, the discrepancy between knowledge of the disease and actual behavior is widening, German leaders warned this week.

According to government statistics, almost 100 percent of the German population is aware of the most frequent modes of HIV transmission and ways to protect against infection.

Among the 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, only about 44,000 are Germans, with some 2,700 newly infected people every year.

Condoms down, STDs up

But German Health Minister Ulla Schmidt pointed out that recent advances in AIDS treatment had lulled many Germans -- and young people in particular -- into thinking the epidemic is no longer a major cause for concern.

This, she said, was increasingly reflected in a growing reluctance to use condoms, which had in turn led to an increase in other sexually transmitted diseases.

Schmidt announced special programs to raise HIV and AIDS awareness among migrants and travelers.

"Our action plan emphasizes the need to implement preventive measures for specific groups of the population," Schmidt said.

Targeting migrants

"We’re going to offer special measures for people with a migrant origin," Schmidt added. "We need to take into account their different cultural backgrounds and the fact that many of these people don’t have a sufficient command of the German language to understand anti-AIDS spots for native Germans."

The federal government is willing to keep its annual budget for AIDS awareness campaigns above 9 million euros ($11.8 million). At the same time, it has called on the German media to keep the subject in the news.  

Developing countries are key

Reports on AIDS in Germany have declined in number and have primarily focused on the epidemic as a problem of developing nations and eastern Europe. TV stations’ willingness to show anti-AIDS spots for free has declined dramatically, also within the public broadcasting networks.

Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul added that Germany would spend about 400 million euros this year on measures to fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis world-wide.

“It’s our task to ensure, together with the World Bank and other institutions, that health centers in developing countries have enough personnel to do a good job," she said.

"Within the European Union we must agree on a code of conduct which would keep us from luring medical staff from Africa to our countries.”

Increasing drug-resistance

Schmidt said it was important to increase research into drug-resistant HIV strains. About 15 percent of newly infected Germans develop such dangerous strains.

Their upsurge is threatening to nullify many of the recent medical advances in AIDS treatment. It is expected that drug-resistant strains will continue to be on the rise over the next few years.

A special government program allocates 3 million euros until 2009 to study drug-resistant strains in the hope to better understand their nature and find cures for them.

source DW World