Leading members of the European Parliament are calling on leaders at all levels of society to support existing commitments to strengthen vulnerable communities and protect the rights of people living with HIV.

The politicians also asked world leaders to expand research into new and better prevention tools, including vaccines and microbicides and to scale up interventions to ensure universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services.

Today is the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day. For over twenty-five years, the HIV/AIDS pandemic has been affecting the lives of millions.

Michael Cashman MEP for the West Midlands, said: “With the current technical and medical advances, HIV infection has shifted from being a death sentence to a chronic disease.

“As with any chronic disease, a correct and timely follow up is necessary to ensure that a person can access the appropriate care and treatment.

“However, over 70% of HIV-positive people, in particular in Africa, still do not have access to antiretroviral (ARV) treatment.

“There have been many commitments and promises made to tackle the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The time is now to live up to these commitments in order to deliver the results we are all hoping for: halting and reversing the spread of HIV.

“With continued and scaled-up commitment and financial support to efforts in the HIV/AIDS response, this result can be achieved.”

The number of people living with HIV in the UK has hit records levels in 2008. Recent reports from the Health Protection Agency show 77,400 people are now living with HIV in the UK and just over a quarter of these do not know they have the virus.

Liberal Democrat European justice & human rights spokeswoman Sarah Ludford MEP, said:

“There has been progress in improving the medical treatment of HIV and AIDS.

“Last month I and other MEPs urged in a resolution that the EU Commission and Member States should formulate a comprehensive strategy for early diagnosis and care.

“In African countries like Malawi, there is hugely encouraging progress in stopping mother-to-baby transmission such that 90% of babies with HIV positive parents are completely healthy.”

“But ignorance and stigma are still a big problem. We learn of children with HIV being excluded from school in the UK, which has no medical rationale.

“It is extraordinary if Whitehall and local councils have failed to develop a proper code for schools which makes this clear.”