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Europe sounds alarm over resurgent AIDS epidemic
  BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe is in the grip of a resurgent AIDS epidemic and its governments have become dangerously complacent about the killer disease, the European Union's executive said on Wednesday.
Although AIDS is most often associated with developing countries, Europe's AIDS problem has become more alarming, with HIV infection spiralling in some new member states on its eastern flank.
"We are talking about rising figures in western Europe, and we are talking about a very serious situation especially in Estonia and Lithuania," European Commissioner Pavel Telicka told a news conference.
Some 1.3 million people in the EU and its neighbour states are infected with HIV, he said.
"In the eastern part of the European Union we have a very serious situation, where rates of increase on an annual basis are not matched anywhere in the world, including Africa," Telicka added.
AIDS is the number one killer in Africa, the home of at least 70% of the world's 40 million HIV-infected people, but the fastest growing epidemic is in eastern Europe.
The former Soviet bloc, eight of whose states joined the EU in May, has endured a 50-fold increase in HIV infections over the past 8 years.
Earlier this year the United Nation's AIDS agency said the epidemic threatened world peace and berated the EU for failing to deal with the AIDS problem on its doorstep.
Telicka said the European Commission has drawn up a document urging the 25-nation bloc to show political leadership in the face of the AIDS crisis. The EU is due to hold an AIDS conference in Lithuania on September 16-17, where health ministers and AIDS experts will seek a coordinated approach.
"The political focus on this issue has loosened since the 80s, when the epidemic made headlines for the first time," Telicka said.
"The very fact that there are successes in finding medicines that won't cure but will definitely help stabilise symptoms of the disease has maybe contributed to a loosening of the awareness of the public," he said.
European Union anti-AIDS programmes are funded from the Commission's 1.2 billion euro ($1.45 billion) disease prevention programme.


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