Our latest figures show that last year, once more, around 30,000 people in Europe contracted HIV - despite all our efforts, this is a figure that has remained largely unchanged in Europe over the past years.
This means an additional 30,000 fellow citizens in poor health; often facing social exclusion, isolation and stigma; and for many also drug addiction, homelessness, and extreme poverty. I have seen it with my own eyes on many occasions. Last month I visited an excellent centre in Luxembourg called "Abrigado", which provides shelter and health support to drug addicts - many of whom live with HIV/AIDS. I would like to see more centres like this in Europe, helping the most vulnerable and, at the same time, reducing transmission of the disease.
The European Commission is fully committed to playing its role. Just last week, the Commission expressed its will to help Member States reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target of ending HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB) by 2030 and of reducing hepatitis, as underlined in our Communication on "Next steps for a Sustainable European Future". The Commission is updating and extending its work in this regard (as highlighted in the working document accompanying this Communication). Our action does not stop at the borders of the European Union, either. The Commission has also reiterated its will to help third countries reach this SDG target in its European Consensus on Development adopted last week.
I had the pleasure of meeting earlier this week a number of familiar organisations: AIDS Action Europe, the European AIDS Treatment Group, TB Europe Coalition and the European Liver Patient Association. I have listened very carefully to their concerns and requests. NGOs can count on my full support and commitment to work with them on HIV/AIDS, TB and hepatitis, both across the European Union and in our neighbour countries, to help in particular the most vulnerable people get access to diagnostics and appropriate care.
My colleagues in DG SANTE are working right now with the Member States and NGOs on a new Joint Action on prevention, and linkage to care for HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis and tuberculosis, targeted at the most vulnerable people in our society. I intend to continue using the Health Programme to further support work in this area. And of course I will be working closely with the EU HIV/AIDS Think Tank and Civil Society Forum to foster action, exchange the best practice, and promote dialogue with Member States and stakeholders.
I hope we will be numerous in working together to build change.