Asia-Pacific moves against HIV

Thirty-four Asia-Pacific countries took a step Monday (Feb. 6) toward meeting the vision of having zero new HIV infections in the region.

Government leaders, senior officials, civil society representatives and people living with the virus gathered in Bangkok for a three-day conference to address the epidemic in the region. The conference is spearheaded by the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

The participants draw on the facts raised by UNESCAP Executive Secretary Noeleen Heyzer on HIV and discuss what the region can do to end the trend of the epidemic “outpacing” the response.

Heyzer noted the “impressive” gains the region has made against HIV, including a 20 percent drop in HIV infection rates. She also said more than 1 million people have obtained access to antiretroviral treatment and HIV incidence in children below 15 has declined.

But Heyzer also warned infections in low HIV-prevalence countries such as Bangladesh and the Philippines have increased 25 percent. Much of this is due to unsafe drug use, sex work and men having sex with men. The MSM demographic is projected to account for half of new HIV infections in Asia by 2020.

The United Nations urged countries to step up their efforts to curb the spread of HIV in the region, starting with reviewing punitive laws and policies that limit access of people at risk to much needed services. Heyzer also encouraged other nations to follow the examples of countries like China and Thailand, which have succeeded in funding much of their own HIV programs.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.