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Action on needlestick safety and more testing is vital to beat AIDS, says Liz

December 1, 2010 3:21 PM

Lib Dem MEP Liz Lynne and campaigners from Health First Europe marked World Aids Day in Brussels today with a meeting to discuss progress in stopping needlestick injuries spreading diseases such as HIV among nurses and health care workers.

Liz also welcomed the launch of an evidence-based HIV testing guide today backed by Europe's leading AIDS experts at the European Centre for Disease Prevention in Brussels.

Liz Lynne, First Vice President of the Employment and Social Affairs Committee, campaigned for six years with Health First Europe and nursing organisations including the RCN for new laws to cut the risks from needles and other sharp objects to medical staff. Agreement on a new needlestick directive was finally reached earlier this year.

Liz Lynne said: "There has been dramatic progress over the last two decades in dealing with HIV / AIDS but the fact is the infection rate is still rising and not just in at risk groups. Treatment is more effective but we must do more to stop people catching it in the first place.

"Today I met Roy Bridges from Health First Europe and Belgium MP Maggie De Block to discuss the implementation of the needlestick directive across the EU, which we campaigned for very hard.

"This is a vital measure to cut the risks of nurses and medical staff catching diseases such as HIV from needles and sharp objects.

"There are over 1 million preventable needlestick injuries across the EU each year. Many of those who are injured and their families face an agonising wait to find out whether they have contracted a blood borne infection such as HIV or Hepatitis C.

"It took nearly six years after nurses from all over Europe came and lobbied the European Parliament in 2004 to get final approval for a needlestick directive earlier this year.

"EU governments were given two years to implement the new safety rules but given the great risks we need to keep up the pressure so they are implemented as soon as possible."

 Liz also welcomed the launch in Brussels today of a new guidance on HIV testing by a group of top experts by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The ECDC is aiming to encourage EU health services to increase the use of HIV tests to diagnose the estimated 30% of people infected with HIV who are unaware of their infection.

Liz Lynne said: "The ECDC guidance launched today shows the potential of more widespread and effective HIV tests to diagnose sufferers earlier. We will only beat AIDS / HIV by concentrating on every avenue to stop the spread of the disease. More efforts to promote condoms, more effective testing and cutting avoidable risks from accidents at work."


Note to editors: West Midlands MEP Liz Lynne is Vice President of the European Parliament's Employment and Social Affairs Committee, which is responsible for Health and Safety in the Workplace. Backed by Health First Europe, Liz campaigned for 6 years for measures to ensure mandatory standards in the workplace to better protect healthcare workers and ancillary workers from needlestick injuries, including a ban on re-sheathing. Earlier this year EU ministers finally decided to adopt new laws to prevent needle stick injuries in the workplace, member states have two years to adopt the measures in domestic legislation. Nursing organisations estimate that in the UK alone there are100,000 annual incidents involving needles or sharps. These injuries can transmit blood borne infections such as Hepatitis C and HIV.