Colore locale

Caspar Thomson
Published: 19 July 2011
Filippo Von Schloesser ©IAS/Marcus Rose/Worker's Photos

One of the pleasures of attending these major international conferences is the opportunity to catch up with colleagues working in similar organisations in other countries and to learn more about how HIV has affected the host nation. It is easy to become immersed in the UK’s response so it can be very illuminating, not to say inspiring, to hear how community leaders and governments elsewhere are tackling the disease.

The HIV epidemic in Italy

In Italy, between 143,000 and 165,000 people are believed to be living with HIV, a quarter of whom are undiagnosed. It’s an epidemic almost twice the size of the UK’s (where 86,500 people are HIV positive) though we share the same proportion of undiagnosed people.

  • During the last few years the number of new infections has been stable at around 4000 a year.
  • Around 60% of diagnoses occur in people whose CD4 count is below 200 (compared with 30% in the UK). 
  • In 2010, 80% of HIV transmission was sexual. This is a significant change since 1990, when 58% was due to injecting drug use.

The Italian government provides nationwide, free HIV treatment and care through its equivalent of the UK’s National Health Service. Local community leaders, though, are quick to point out that access to treatment is not equal, due to the regionalisation of the system, and they are calling for nationwide implementation of national treatment guidelines.

Filippo von Schloesser

One local community leader is Filippo von Schloesser (pictured above), president of Fondazione Nadir Onlus, a local treatment information organisation, not dissimilar to NAM.

Filippo and I have known each other for some years. His is an inspiring story. He has been living with HIV for 25 years. He has survived a heart attack. He is a fighter. As he describes it, he has “fought for a place at the table” – and he has won it. Delivering a speech from the top table at the opening session of IAS 2011, he declared, “I am alive today because I was born in this part of the world,” before calling on the Italian government to live up to its promise to contribute to the Global Fund (it hasn’t given a single Euro since 2009), to restart the National AIDS Research Programme, to put in place legislation to protect against homophobia, and to ensure equitable access to treatment along the entire Italian peninsula “where budgetary pressures in the healthcare system are threatening good clinical practice”.

His sights then settled on the country only two miles from the conference centre, the Vatican, and he went on to challenge the fact that scientifically proven methods to prevent the spread of HIV “continue to be confounded with moral and religious principles”.

I caught up with Filippo and asked him, if he had one thing to say to the Italian government, what it would be – I had to allow him two. The first: “Treatment IS prevention.” The second, a plea: “Stop listening to the Vatican!”

The Rome Declaration

Filippo has been involved in the development of the Rome Declaration. It urges “HIV/AIDS prevention, care, rights and research: now more than ever!” and will be presented to the Italian Ministry of Health following IAS 2011. The declaration was finalised in July by representatives of approximately 100 Italian NGOs. “It was the first time I have seen so many NGOs come together and back a common agenda,” Filippo said. “I have never seen anything like it in the history of HIV in Italy.”

You can visit to sign the declaration. 

Inspired by Filippo?

Whether or not you are attending the conference in Rome, finding out about what other organisations are doing, anywhere in the world, can be really inspiring. Our online e-atlas ( contains information and links to thousands of organisations. Why not do your own networking using this great free resource?

You can also find HIV services or look for information and news about HIV in Italy:

Or visit our translation pages for patient information resources in Italian:

Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.