Asian health officials vow to intensify HIV-prevention campaign

August 28th, 2008 - 2:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Manila, Aug 28 (DPA) Health officials and experts from Asia-Pacific countries with a low prevalence of HIV and AIDS vowed Thursday to intensify efforts to prevent the spread of the disease in their nations.Delegates from 11 countries who attended a three-day meeting in Manila noted there was a need for governments, civil society groups and international development partners to improve efforts to deliver interventions to most-at-risk populations.

They also stressed that access and availability of anti-retroviral treatments should be a key factor in anti-HIV/AIDS campaigns in every country and additional funds outside national budgets must be mobilized.

The 11 countries attending were Bangladesh, Bhutan, Fiji, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and East Timor.

Fiji Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Ratu Epeli Nailatikau warned that while the number of HIV and AIDS cases among the participating countries was low, the disease was like a ticking time bomb that could easily turn into a full-blown epidemic if left unchecked.

“Since the first cases of HIV surfaced in the late 1970s and early ’80s, there has been no cure for the HIV pandemic,” he said at the end of the meeting in Manila. “It tells us that our efforts must go on, further and further.”

In a joint statement at the end of the meeting, the delegates committed themselves to “an enhanced and effective response to HIV in Asia and the Pacific which ensures equal access to services for all persons regardless of their age, sexual orientation or gender.”

They also called on political leaders to increase allocation of resources in the fight against HIV and AIDS, which afflicts productive age groups.

“Countries must clearly identify their priorities and effectively allocate their resources if they expect to maintain a financially sustainable response to the HIV epidemics in the region,” the statement said.

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