AIDS Advocates Worried Nepalese Government ‘Lacks Political Leadership’ Needed To Effectively Run AIDS Program
The Nepalese government in May is scheduled to take over the operation of the "Nepal Initiative," a multifaceted AIDS awareness and prevention campaign created in 2000 by independent foreign aid groups, but some AIDS advocates are worried that the government "lacks the political leadership to administer an AIDS control project effectively," which they say could lead to an "explo[sion]" in HIV/AIDS cases in the country, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The initiative, as well as Nepal's geographic isolation, has prevented the virus from "gaining a major foothold" in the country; the government estimates that only 2,097 people out of Nepal's population of 26 million are HIV-positive. However, UNAIDS says that the government's numbers are a "vast understatement" of the real situation. The agency estimates that 58,000 people in the country are HIV-positive, and Michael Hahn, director of UNAIDS in Nepal, said that the number of HIV/AIDS cases in the country will "likely" rise to 150,000 by 2005. According to the Chronicle, the government takeover of the initiative "appears to be spurred by nationalist concerns." Health Minister Upendra Devkota said, "HIV is a big problem in Nepal, and the government is concerned. But the purpose of the Nepal Initiative was to carry out awareness and advocacy programs and hammer out a national strategy." Devkota added, "That is more or less done. The (health) ministry now wants to be in the driver's seat." However, Aaron Peak, an advocate who took part in the initiative, said, "There is a difference between writing a national strategy and implementing it," adding, "They don't have the capacity to implement" (Bell, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.