The European Commission on Tuesday released €1 million to provide urgent support to Libya in its fight against the AIDS/HIV epidemic in Benghazi. This money will pay for urgent policy advice and technical support to the Libyan health authorities and upgrade the capacity of the Benghazi Centre for Infectious Diseases and Immunology (BCIDI) to international standards. These projects are part of the longer-term “HIV Action Plan for Benghazi”. The Action Plan was launched by the EU in November 2004 and is being implemented by the Libyan authorities with support from the Commission and EU Member States.
Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, said “When I went to the Benghazi centre in May I was struck by the suffering, but also by the courage of the children with HIV/AIDS. Today we have proven that we not only have deep sympathy for these children but that we are committed to improving their situation.” The Commissioner added, “AIDS is a global challenge to modern medicine. With today’s package we can share the best of European expertise with Libya to improve its capacity to tackle this terrible disease.”
In Benghazi, more than 400 children and mothers have been infected by HIV/AIDS. Measures taken over the last six years have not succeeded in bringing the BCIDI to the high standard of medical care needed to tackle such a massive epidemic or in raising awareness of the wider community to reintegrate patients into society.
The new package is a €1 million grant to give policy advice to the Libyan government and health authorities at national and regional level and provide technical assistance and specialist advice on the treatment of patients, systems for safe blood transfusion, laboratory analysis, hospital management and social reintegration of HIV-infected persons and their families into Libyan society.
The money will provide for the permanent presence of European doctors and technicians in Benghazi over the next six months. These professionals will supervise medical care, organise the various hospital departments concerned with the epidemics and provide training to their Libyan counterparts. Training will also be given to Libyan medical staff in Europe.
These measures will be funded by the Commission’s Rapid Reaction Mechanism: a system which allows for the instant release of money. The EU Delegation to Tunisia is already involved in the detailed planning of contracts with the view to beginning all projects immediately.