25 April 2003
Belgrade, Serbia – After a decade of internal turmoil, with poor economic conditions and surrounded by countries in which the epidemic has exploded, Serbia is facing a formidable set of high-risk factors in the battle against HIV/AIDS.
Current levels of HIV infection in Serbia’s populace are unknown – the country does not have a formal, mandatory system of reporting and surveillance – but all predictive signs point to the immediate possibility of a rapidly developing epidemic. Serbia is emerging from a decade of armed conflicts. It is surrounded by countries where the HIV/AIDS epidemic is advanced, it has a high number of refugees in marginal conditions.
Other factors contributing to the threat include high unemployment; geographical position on a main drug trafficking route to Western Europe (from Albania and Macedonia) and hence increased IV and other drug use; transit point for human trafficking (with resulting growth in sexual commerce); lack of preventive programs.
As a result, the establishment of the Republic National AIDS Committee by the Prime Minister of Serbia was a vital first step in the battle, and the Global Fund’s approval of US$ 2.7 million over the first two years for the country’s HIV/AIDS proposal whose principal recipient is the Economics Institute of Belgrade.
Consistent with the priorities, proposals and support being provided to Serbia by various multilateral agencies, the main objectives of the Serbia proposal are to develop a comprehensive national strategy for HIV/AIDS and to implement a range of immediate preventive interventions including those directed at high-risk groups, at controlling mother-to-child transmission, at developing education programs for healthcare personnel and for schools, as well as providing drugs and necessary medical supplies that will improve current health care protection for people living with HIV/AIDS.