The International AIDS Society mourns the passing of Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan and honours his life of service and dedication to an open society and to the fight against AIDS.
Amsterdam, the city that Mayor van der Laan led for seven years, occupies a critical role in the history of the global fight against AIDS. It was among the first cities in the world to support needle exchange, which helped address a growing epidemic among people who inject drugs. In keeping with the city’s commitment to an evidence-based response to the epidemic, Amsterdam has long been a national and global centre of HIV-related research, including an ongoing trial comparing daily and intermittent use of pre-exposure antiretroviral prophylaxis. In 2018, Amsterdam will host the 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018).
“To stop the urban HIV epidemic, inclusivity is essential,” Mayor van der Laan said. His leadership vividly reflected this commitment to an open, transparent and participatory fight against HIV. Civil society and community groups play pivotal roles in the city’s response to the epidemic. Mayor van der Laan is globally renowned for his visible and unflagging commitment to the rights of LGBT people and to the broader human rights agenda.
Under Mayor van der Laan, Amsterdam embarked on a historic effort to end its HIV epidemic. As of 2015, 94% of all people living with HIV in Amsterdam knew their HIV status and 79% of all people living with HIV achieved viral suppression. The number of new HIV diagnoses in Amsterdam has fallen by half in only five years.
“Mayor van der Laan’s passion to address the needs of those left behind in the fight against AIDS was pivotal to our decision to host AIDS 2018 in Amsterdam,” said International AIDS Society President Linda-Gail Bekker. “We will miss him greatly and honour his commitment when we all come together next July.”
“With the passing of Mayor van der Laan, we lose a tireless people’s champion. His empathy and unprecedented ability to connect have been hugely important for the city’s HIV response,” said Peter Reiss, Local Co-chair of AIDS 2018. “We are certain that the example of his leadership and the principles he so courageously championed will live on – not only in Amsterdam, but also around the world.”