Asia Pacific Government, NGO Leaders Meet in Thailand To Discuss Universal Access to HIV/AIDS Treatment, Prevention
Delegates from 22 countries in the Asia Pacific region on Tuesday began a three-day meeting in Pattaya, Thailand, aimed at creating regional plans for universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment, as well as prevention information, the Bangkok Post reports. UNAIDS Director of Country and Regional Support Michel Sidibe said delegates at the conference -- which includes representatives from governments, nongovernmental organizations and community and faith-based organizations working in public health -- highlighted where money is needed for long-term prevention and treatment so that funding proposals could be made for the region. "We will make sure that the universal access process makes a difference, both in advocacy and in practical actions to help countries overcome obstacles to scaling up," Sidibe said (Bangkok Post, 2/14). Prasada Rao, UNAIDS Asia Pacific regional director, said that to achieve universal access, every nation in the region must enhance their HIV-prevention efforts as well as their treatment programs (Xinhuanet, 2/15). The nearly 200 delegates also are scheduled to discuss funding for domestic and global HIV/AIDS programs, fighting the stigma related to the epidemic and providing equal care and services to HIV-positive people. Sidibe said each country will create its own objectives, as well as a list of "10 top actions" to curb the epidemic across the region (Associated Press, 2/14). "The fight against AIDS must be invigorated," Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, special UNAIDS representative on HIV and AIDS in the Pacific, said, adding, "We must change our attitudes and persuade others to change their attitudes towards AIDS and in particular towards those suffering from it" (PNS/Pacific Magazine, 2/13). Some HIV/AIDS advocates expressed reservations about what can be accomplished at such a large meeting. Mechai Viravaidya, a Thai senator and director of the Population and Community Development Association, said there is "not much the U.N. can do if there is no country commitment," adding that there must be progress on a local level. About 20% of the more than 40 million HIV-positive people in the world live in the region, according to the Post (Bangkok Post, 2/14).
Thai Minister Says Government Aims To Halve Number of New HIV Cases
Thai Vice Minister for Public Health Arun Pausawasdi at the conference on Tuesday said the government plans to contribute to the regionwide effort to curb the HIV/AIDS epidemic by halving the annual number of new HIV cases in Thailand within the next three years, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. "Thailand will move ahead with a strategic aim to strengthen our prevention programs and to reduce annual new [HIV cases] by half within three years," Arun said, adding, "We do anticipate that the number of new HIV [cases] in 2008 will be 7,500" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 2/13). The Ministry of Public Health's Disease Control Department last month announced that the number of new HIV cases in 2005 declined by about 10% to about 18,000 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/5).