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UN urges Asia-Pacific nations to scale up domestic funds for AIDS response

UN urges Asia-Pacific nations to scale up domestic funds for AIDS response

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has warned that countries in Asia and the Pacific will face serious difficulties in sustaining their response to the disease unless they become less reliant on external donors and commit more national funds to their AIDS programmes.

Resources for national AIDS programmes in the region, while increasing, are insufficient for a long-term response to the pandemic, UNAIDS Asia Pacific Regional Director Prasada Rao told those gathered at the 8th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, which opened yesterday in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

National budgets for AIDS programmes in the region account for only 30 per cent of the $1.2 billion allocated for AIDS, he noted, adding that, with the exception of Thailand, international donors fund the balance.

Echoing his comments, Deborah Landey, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, said she hoped to see a substantial increase in domestic funding for AIDS in the region by next year.

“In this third decade of the epidemic, it is becoming more and more important for countries not only to demonstrate strong political leadership, but to commit their own funds to tackling AIDS,” she stated. “This gives new meaning to the concept of national ownership.”

Although prevalence rates remain low across the region, new infections rates are rising in a number of countries such as Papua New Guinea, Viet Nam, Indonesia, Nepal and Bangladesh. Overall, the region has seen some 1 million new infections in the last two years.

Mr. Rao called on civil society groups – including people living with HIV – to continue and to increase pressure on Governments to deliver concrete AIDS programmes. “We need continued vigilance to ensure that HIV prevention and treatment are reaching people most at risk and most in need,” he said.

The weeklong conference brings together more than 3,000 delegates from some 60 countries to discuss critical issues on AIDS in the region such as stigma and discrimination, access to HIV prevention and treatment and the importance of sustained political commitment on AIDS.