Friday, August 22, 2008

Manila hosts 2nd LPC Meeting

In the Asia and Pacific Region a country-driven process on scaling up towards universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support was launched in early 2006. The process aimed to identify solutions to the key obstacles that are blocking universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support services, and to develop nationally agreed, targeted plans or ‘roadmaps’ for building significantly more comprehensive AIDS programmes by 2010. However, during the Regional Consultation on Scaling up Towards Universal Access to HIV Prevention, Treatment, Care and Support in February 2006 in Pattaya, Thailand, participants acknowledged that low prevalence countries have distinct issues that challenge the attainment of their targets towards universal access. These issues include minimal resources allocated, weak government commitment, weak civil society participation, low coverage of programmes, reflecting the low prioritization given to AIDS programmes and the “invisibility” of the problem vis-à-vis other competing priorities.

Thus, the 1st Regional Consultative Meeting on Universal Access to Prevention, Treatment, Care and Support in Low Prevalence Countries was organized in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia in 24-27 October 2006. Sixty two (62) representatives from governments, civil society and international organizations from 10 countries participated in the meeting, namely, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Fiji, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Philippines and Sri Lanka. Various UN and multilateral agencies were also present as resource persons and observers. The participants concluded that countries where HIV is still relatively low have a window of opportunity to avoid more serious epidemics cost-effectively. 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. It is therefore essential that countries with low HIV prevalence invest in sustainable and focused prevention efforts, and actively counter the stigma of HIV and the taboos that hinder addressing risky behaviours.

Calling for action to increase sustainable HIV prevention efforts and funding for AIDS, the delegates adopted the Ulaanbaatar 2006 Call for Action, which, among others:

* underscored the need for focused prevention efforts for people most at risk, including sex workers and their clients, injecting drug users, men who have sex with men and migrants and mobile populations, majority of whom are young;
* called for greater efforts to raise general awareness about AIDS to help break down AIDS-related stigma and discrimination;
* highlighted priorities for 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;
* emphasized that national AIDS action plans need adequate funding, ambitious but realistic targets, high-level political commitment, and the full involvement of civil society; and,
* urged governments and international donors to increase support for national HIV prevention programmes.

Delegates also endorsed the holding of a second meeting to look at the progress made by countries in moving towards universal access to HIV prevention and AIDS treatment, care and support.


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