BUSAN, KOREA– ASEAN Member States recently participated in the 10th International Conference on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (10th ICAAP) to share progress and challenges in addressing HIV and AIDS in Southeast Asian region.
At the Conference, the ASEAN Task Force on AIDS (ATFOA) presented the status of the HIV epidemic and response, and highlighted priority actions to achieve the goal of reversing the epidemic in sustainable manner. ATFOA’s long-term vision is “zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS related death and zero discrimination”.
Mr Myung-Hwan Cho, the 10th ICAAP Congress Chair, said “The conference is a particularly meaningful event as it coincides with the 30th anniversary of the discovery of AIDS. I hope that participants will share diverse views to come up with unified actions against the illness.” The Conference is co-hosted by Government of South Korea, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and AIDS Society of the Asia and the Pacific.
The Conference provided the highlights of the first ASEAN Regional Report on HIV and AIDS. The Report estimated that there are 1.5 million people living with HIV, which is lower than the 1.6 million reported in 2006. In ASEAN, the national HIV prevalences range from less than 0.1 per cent to 0.7 per cent. The epidemics in ASEAN show a range of heterogeneities along similar epidemic patterns. Key affected populations such as people who inject drugs, men having sex with men, and sex workers and their clients continue to occupy the majority of the HIV cases.
Representatives from UNAIDS and civil society organisations also provided their insights. Mr Cho Kah Sin, Programme Adviser from UNAIDS Regional Support Team said that “ASEAN is home to some of the most widely acknowledged good practices in HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.” He said that ASEAN Member Countries have gained much expertise, which they can now share within the region in the spirit of intra-ASEAN collaboration. He added the “evolution of ATFOA through the past 18 years has been impressive, especially in terms of the creative ways in which civil society organisations have been involved in regional cooperation as well as in high-level inter-governmental consultation processes”. He pointed out that ASEAN has a clear niche in strengthening country responses on AIDS, for example by fostering dialogue between the public security and health sectors to strengthen the enabling policy environment for HIV prevention, and also by leveraging its collective power to secure access to affordable quality anti-retroviral drugs.
The representative from youth, Iswandy Ahmad, delivered the voice from the civil society in the context of cultural and religious diversity in the region. He added the important voice from the community to be brought forward in regional and national policy making processes. He echoed the need not only to share best practices but also past mistakes to better guide other countries in designing a more focused and effective interventions. The Conference draws conclusions on the need for sustained actions from both the government and community-based organisations.
The 10th ICAAP was held on 27 August and chaired by Dr Ly Penh Sun as Vice Chair of ATFOA (Cambodia) and Mr Larry Maramis, Director of Cross-Sectoral Cooperation Directorate of the ASEAN Secretariat. Over 2,500 participants from 64 countries from diverse areas such as governments, civil society including key affected populations, private and multi-lateral agencies joined the Conference. The theme of this year’s Conference is “Diverse Voices, United Action”.