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Low-Rate HIV Countries Warned Against Complacency

UN-Backed Meeting Warns Low-Rate HIV Countries in Asia-Pacific Against Complacency

New York, Oct 30 2006 2:00PM

Asian and Pacific countries with low rates of HIV infection, far from being lulled into complacency, must improve surveillance and adequately fund national AIDS action plans, a United Nations-backed conference has concluded.

“Whether a country is low prevalence or high prevalence, the risk factors are the same, and HIV prevention efforts need to be focused to be most effective,” the Director of the UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific, J.V.R. Prasada, told the meeting of 10 countries in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

Countries where HIV is still relatively rare have a window of opportunity to avoid more serious epidemics cost-effectively. But it is essential that they invest in targeted prevention efforts, and actively counter the stigma of HIV and the taboos that hinder addressing risky behaviours.

This was the conclusion of the First Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Universal Access to HIV Prevention, Treatment, Care and Support in Low Prevalence Countries, where experts from governments, civil society and international organizations shared experiences and strategies for strengthening national AIDS programmes.

Delegates adopted the Ulaanbaatar 2006 Call for Action, highlighting the priorities of an effective response to the epidemic such as improving surveillance systems, so they can better understand factors driving the epidemic and target interventions to those most at risk.

National AIDS action plans need adequate funding, ambitious but realistic targets, high-level political commitment, and the full involvement of civil society, the Call said, urging governments and international donors to increase support for national HIV prevention programmes.

Participants agreed that targeted prevention efforts should focus on people most at risk, including sex workers and their clients, injecting drug users, men who have sex with men and young migrants. Efforts should also be made to raise general awareness about AIDS to help break down AIDS-related stigma and discrimination. Despite a few notable successes in containing the epidemic, infections continue to rise throughout Asia and the Pacific region and have reached concentrated levels in a number of countries.

The Government of Mongolia organized the four-day meeting, which ended on Friday, in partnership with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN World Health Organization (WHO), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UNAIDS. The 10 countries attending were: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Fiji, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

ENDS

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