More Funding Needed for AIDS Epidemic in Asia, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Cravero Tells Congressional Hearing
It is "increasingly urgent" that the United States act to stop the spread of AIDS in Asia, which is "fast approaching a critical tipping point," UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Kathleen Cravero said on Wednesday at a congressional hearing on AIDS in Asia, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. Although the United States provides the most funding for global AIDS, the initiatives are focused primarily in Africa and the Caribbean, with 14 of the 15 countries covered under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief located in Africa and the Caribbean. UNAIDS does not expect as "drastic" an increase in cases in Asia as it has seen in Africa, but "it is vital to act decisively before crossing into that epidemiological danger zone," Cravero said. Because Asia accounts for 60% of the world's population, even relatively low prevalence rates translate into millions of cases. For example, although India's HIV prevalence is less than 1%, this rate translates into about five million people -- more than the entire populations of Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland combined, Cravero said. Therefore, the United States should adopt a three-part approach to the Asian epidemic by providing and leveraging increased funding from both donor and affected countries; offering training and assistance; and "promoting leadership through diplomacy," Cravero said, according to AFP/Yahoo! News.
Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa), head of the House International Relations Subcommittee on Asia-Pacific Affairs, said that AIDS is the biggest foreign policy issue. "On the plus side, on a bipartisan and bi-institutional basis, the U.S. government has provided more than one half of AIDS assistance in the world; on the minus side, it is probably one tenth of what is necessary," Leach said. Bates Gill, the Freeman chair in China Studies for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that the United States should create a more coherent plan for addressing the Asian epidemic, especially in China, India, Indonesia and Russia. Gill suggested that the United States establish a joint commission on public health with China, which could primarily focus on AIDS. In addition, Gill suggested that Ambassador Randall Tobias, head of the State Department Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, travel to China this year to demonstrate U.S. commitment to assist China in its fight against the disease (AFP/Yahoo! News, 7/21).