Australian Government Pledges $350M for HIV/AIDS Programs in Asia-Pacific Through 2010
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer on Monday at the Third Ministerial Meeting on HIV/AIDS in Sydney, Australia, announced that the government has committed an additional 400 million Australian dollars, or about $350 million, for programs to fight HIV/AIDS in the Asia-Pacific region, the AAP/Sydney Morning Herald reports. The funds will be distributed by 2010 and will be added to the 600 million Australian dollars, or about $528 million, committed by the country last year for such programs, Downer said (AAP/Sydney Morning Herald, 7/23). The money will be distributed through the government's foreign aid agency, AusAID, for HIV/AIDS education and condom distribution programs, the Australian reports.
Efforts will focus primarily on Papua New Guinea, which has experienced significant increases in HIV/AIDS rates during the past 10 years. As of last year, the government had spent 60 million Australian dollars, or about $52 million, in Papua New Guinea and 37 million Australian dollars, or about $32 million, in Indonesia to fight HIV/AIDS. Downer said that without increased action, 1.5 million people in Indonesia and 300,000 people in Papua New Guinea would die by 2025 of AIDS-related illnesses (Marris/Maley, Australian, 7/23). There 8.3 million people living with the disease in the Asia-Pacific, Downer said.
"In the Asia-Pacific region, we don't have a problem on the scale of much of Africa, but we don't want to let it get to that stage," Downer said, adding, "As a significant country in the region, we are determined to play our part to address the problem ... we need to stop the situation deteriorating" (AAP/Sydney Morning Herald, 7/23). In addition, Downer voiced concern that HIV/AIDS rates in Papua New Guinea are under-reported. "My view is there is a lot more that needs to be done in terms of HIV awareness," he said, adding, "The challenge for us in the Asia-Pacific region is to have 100% HIV awareness. I hope we can do that by 2010" (ABC News, 7/23). The announcement coincides with the 4th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention being held in Sydney, Australia (Australian, 7/23).
Reuters on Monday examined the HIV/AIDS epidemic's impact on women in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in Papua New Guinea. Official estimates places the number of people living with HIV in Papua New Guinea at 12,000, but some HIV/AIDS workers say that the actual number is between 80,000 and 120,000, according to Reuters. Papua New Guinea Health Minister Peter Barter at the IAS conference said that polygamy is a major obstacle to HIV prevention efforts in the country. "In many parts of Papua New Guinea, a person can have up to five or six wives and 20 children," Barter said, adding, "We have to change that behavior. It's a cultural matter and it will take some time to do it" (Lee, Reuters, 7/23).
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