Asia-Pacific HIV/AIDS Conference Adopts Call to Action To Stem Epidemic Among Children
Hundreds of delegates attending the East Asia and Pacific Conference on HIV/AIDS and Children on Friday adopted the Hanoi Call to Action for Children and HIV/AIDS, pledging to focus efforts and resources on protecting children from the epidemic, Xinhua/People's Daily reports (Xinhua/People's Daily, 3/24). Health experts -- including delegates from 19 countries and about 30 international agencies -- gathered on Wednesday in Hanoi, Vietnam, for the three-day conference to discuss new approaches and efforts to stem the spread of HIV/AIDS among children in the region. According to UNAIDS figures from 2004, an estimated 1.5 million children in the Asia-Pacific region have lost one or both parents to AIDS-related complications and an additional 121,000 children are HIV-positive. About 35,000 children in the region are in need of antiretroviral treatment. The conference -- which was organized by the Vietnamese Commission for Population, Family and Children, Family Health International, Save the Children, UNAIDS, UNICEF, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the World Health Organization -- is the first and largest of its kind in the region (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/22). Under the action plan, governments, civil societies and international partner organizations in East Asia and Pacific regions agreed to perform country-level evaluations of how HIV/AIDS is affecting children; strengthen policies and regulations that govern the support and care of children; increase prevention efforts, reduce the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV/AIDS; and address financial obstacles that reduce access to treatment and care (Xinhua/People's Daily, 3/24). "It is imperative that the call for action is taken seriously at the highest level of political decision making," Anupama Rao Singh, UNICEF's regional director of East Asia and the Pacific, said in a statement (Xinhua/People's Daily, 3/24). "Many children at risk are unaware of how to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS and do not have access to needed information, services and commodities," the call to action statement says (Agence France-Presse, 3/24).
Improved HIV Testing Among Pregnant Women Needed
Increased efforts to improve HIV testing among pregnant women in the Asia-Pacific region are needed to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus, officials at the Regional Conference said on Thursday, the Associated Press reports. According to UNAIDS data, an estimated 8% of pregnant women across Asia received HIV tests in 2003, while 3% of women in the Pacific region received tests during the same time period. Some conference attendees -- including a UNICEF epidemiologist Neff Walker -- said that it is more important to focus prevention efforts on high-risk adult and adolescent populations instead of increasing testing among pregnant women. "The beauty of East Asia and the Pacific is that we can be 100% effective by intervening with adults," Walker said, adding, "If pregnant women don't get HIV-infected, then they can't transmit the disease to their kids." In addition, some officials said that providing HIV tests to women without other support services will not make an impact unless the women's husbands or sexual partners are involved (Mason, Associated Press, 3/23).