Asian Governments Should Increase Funding To Reduce Economic Impact of HIV/AIDS, UNAIDS Report Says
Asian governments must increase funding for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention programs to help curb the spread of the disease and avoid severe economic consequences, according to a report released by UNAIDS and the Asian Development Bank in advance of the XV International AIDS Conference to be held in Bangkok, Thailand, July 11-16, the Financial Times reports (Kazmin, Financial Times, 7/7). The report, "Asia Pacific's Opportunity: Investing to Avert an HIV/AIDS Crisis," says that if leaders of Asia-Pacific countries establish comprehensive prevention and treatment programs "immediately," they could "dramatically" reduce the number of new HIV cases and the long-term cost of the epidemic in the region, according to a UNAIDS release. Currently, more than seven million HIV-positive people are living in Asia and the Pacific, and "hundreds of thousands" of people die from AIDS-related causes annually. The economic losses in the region associated with the epidemic totaled more than $7 billion in 2001, the report says, according to the release. If governments in the region do not take action, there could be more than 10 million people living with HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific by the end of the decade, and the economic costs of the epidemic could reach $17.5 billion annually, according to the report (UNAIDS release, 7/8). If Asian-Pacific governments do not ramp up funding for treatment and prevention programs, approximately 5.6 million people in India, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia will enter poverty each year through 2015 because of the impact of the disease on "family breadwinners," the report says, according to the Times.
Next Steps, Impact
The report calls for a tenfold increase in funding for HIV prevention and treatment programs, including antiretroviral drug treatment for poor HIV-positive people, from wealthier nations in the Asian-Pacific region, the Times reports. According to the report, such an increase would be "modest and fully justified." The report also called for an increase in funding from international donors for poorer countries in Asia, according to the Times. If Asian-Pacific governments implement HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment campaigns, the cumulative number of new HIV cases in the region by 2010 could fall to four million and the estimated annual number of AIDS-related deaths could fall from 750,000 people to 660,000 people, the report says, according to the Times (Financial Times, 7/8).
ADB Vice-President Geert van der Linden said that the "AIDS menace threatens to take a massive human toll in the region." UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said, "Governments in Asia and the Pacific can still avert a massive increase in infections and deaths, limit economic losses and save millions of people from poverty if they are willing to finance comprehensive AIDS programs," adding, "The role of political leadership is more critical at this point than ever before" (UNAIDS release, 7/8). A group of health ministers from Asia-Pacific countries said in a 21-point draft communique that the countries will provide more funding to combat the epidemic in the region, Reuters reports. The ministers said that they acknowledge the need to allocate more of their national budgets and "secure external resources, both financial resources and social capital, to ensure equitable access for all to prevention, treatment and care." The ministers also expressed "concern over the trans-boundary nature of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the absence of adequate joint efforts in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support in the region" (Reuters, 7/7).
WBUR's "Here and Now" on Wednesday included an interview about AIDS in Indonesia with Elizabeth Pisani, an AIDS specialist for Family Health International. Pisani said the increase in HIV infections in the country is "driven" by a rise in injection drug use, and that a lack of political will and a supportive environment with "appropriate" services are the "biggest impediments" to fighting HIV/AIDS in the country. Pisani also discussed how some fundamentalist Islamic groups in the country have interfered with HIV/AIDS education, while many moderate Islamic groups support increasing awareness about HIV/AIDS (Young, "Here and Now," WBUR, 7/7). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
A kaisernetwork.org video feature -- prepared by Fred de Sam Lazaro, who also is a correspondent for the "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" -- includes interviews with people at the front lines of efforts to fight HIV/AIDS in Thailand. The video is the fourth in a series of spotlights from kaisernetwork.org on local efforts around the world to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The other features -- which examine HIV/AIDS in Haiti, Brazil and India -- also are available online.