On Friday 1 December 2023, Luxembourg’s Ministry of Health and Social Security reported facts and initiatives aimed at prevention of further infections and support for people living with HIV.
World AIDS Day is celebrated every 1 December around the world. This day is both an opportunity to show support for people living with HIV and a reminder that numerous people have died from this disease since the 1980s. This year, the global organisation UNAIDS is focusing on helping communities exposed to risk or affected by the virus to better fight this disease.
In 2022, Luxembourg had 1,237 people living with HIV and each year, unfortunately, new people become infected with the virus. In 2022, 67 new people were infected. This represents a clear increase compared to the 51 new cases recorded in 2021. The main sources of transmission remain heterosexual and homosexual intercourse.
Only 82% of people diagnosed with HIV in Luxembourg have an undetectable viral load, while UNAIDS' goal is to reach 95% by 2030. Community programmes must be strengthened to help ensure better treatment adherence and also guarantee easy access to prevention and screening. This is called combined prevention, in particular for people who have limited access to care.
This combined prevention represents the pillar of objectives set by UNAIDS called “Fast-Track” project 95.95.95. Indeed, by 2030, the world organisation has set itself an ambitious treatment target to help end the AIDS epidemic to make up for the delays accumulated before 2020:
- 95% of people living with HIV know their serological status;
- 95% of all HIV-infected people tested receive durable antiretroviral treatment;
- 95% of people receiving anti-retroviral treatment have a lastingly suppressed viral load.
The Ministry of Health and Social Security, in collaboration with the Surveillance Committee for AIDS, Infectious Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Diseases, the HIV Berodung service of the Red Cross, is focusing the 2023 HIV prevention campaign on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) prevention treatment.
PrEP is a preventative treatment that involves taking medication in pill form orally to avoid the risk of contracting HIV infection. This treatment is possible to take continuously every day without interruption or on demand for one-off protection. In Luxembourg, PrEP is available on medical prescription by an infectious disease doctor from the National Infectious Diseases Service and is reimbursed by the National Health Fund (CNS).
A website dedicated to this treatment has been set up and all the necessary information is available there: https://prep.lu/. Note that PrEP only protects against HIV, and not against other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
In addition to prophylactic or preventive PrEP treatment, there are several HIV prevention tools:
- the condom, whether external or internal, remains the only means of prevention that protects against HIV, other STIs and unwanted pregnancies;
- the screening test is the only tool allowing you to know your HIV status and therefore to be able to best prevent contamination of others, by correctly treating the infection;
- HIV treatment as prevention (TAsP − treatment as prevention) means that a person living with HIV under treatment and with an undetectable viral load can no longer transmit the virus to their sexual partners;
- PEP [post-exposure prophylaxis or post-exposure treatment (PET)], also called emergency treatment, helps reduce the risk of contracting HIV if it is taken within a maximum of 48 hours after a potentially serious risk of infection.
Awareness actions on the occasion of World AIDS Day
On 1 December the following actions will be organised:
From 7:30 to 9:30, the HIV Berodung (HIV counselling) service of the Luxembourg Red Cross will organise a distribution of condoms at two different locations in Luxembourg City: on the square in front of Luxembourg station, and at the funicular which ensures the connection between Luxembourg-Pfaffenthal and Luxembourg-Kirchberg.
From 11:30 to 14:30, a distribution of condoms will take place at the Cloche d'Or Shopping Centre and the DIMPS-Mobile HIV Testing mobile service will be present at the Hamilius Centre and will offer HIV screening using a rapid, free and anonymous test. Likewise, a distribution of condoms will take place.
This 1 December will also be the last day on which it will be possible to buy a “love baguette” in one of the Namur boutiques in Luxembourg. The “love baguette” is a wand shaped into a ribbon, to recall the red ribbon, symbol of solidarity towards people living with HIV. For each love baguette purchased, €1 is donated to the HIV Berodung service of the Red Cross for its prevention actions.
At 18:00, the HIV Berodung service of the Luxembourg Red Cross is organising a solidarity evening during which the winners of the “Art On T-Shirt” competition will be presented as well as the exhibition of the projects, organised this year around the theme “My Party, My Safety” to raise public awareness of the importance of protecting yourself even when partying. The evening will be held at the Cap4Group premises in Bertrange.