ASEAN delegates share innovative practices on Getting to Zero Cities initiative
Mawlamyine, 20 to 21 April 2018 – Innovative practices in implementing HIV programmes at the city-level were at the center of discussions during an ASEAN regional consultation meeting held in Mawlamyine, Myanmar. Some of the best practices cited were having same day diagnosis and treatment for people living with HIV (PLHIV) to reduce loss to follow-up and creating a ‘one-stop’ shop approach that is targeted towards the need of men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender (TG) people.Senior central and participating city health officials from Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam actively shared progress towards project goals, best practices and future plans of action on their respective Getting to Zero Cities (G2Z) project sites. The G2Z project, launched in 2011, is a flagship initiative of the ASEAN to achieve zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths in Southeast Asia.
In order to reach the ambitious goals of the G2Z project, the ASEAN Member States have begun to focus on prevention and treatment responses along 90-90-90 targets committed to under the ‘ASEAN Declaration of Commitment on HIV and AIDS: Fast-Tracking and Sustaining HIV and AIDS Responses to End the AIDS epidemic by 2030’. During the meeting, delegates from the eight ASEAN states shared strategies to identify and reach key populations, including enhanced outreach interventions and use of mapping to target outreach activities, among others. HIV-specific legislation protecting PLHIV from discrimination and localized community level efforts to empower and support PLHIV also formed part of the discussions.
The ASEAN delegates also reported on the expansion of the project in their respective countries, bringing the total of Getting to Zero Cities in the ASEAN from an original of 13 pilot sites in 2012 to more than 60 sites across the region. During the meeting, Myanmar also announced additional two Getting to Zero sites, Hpa-an and Myawaddy, as part of their commitment to the initiative.
Representatives from three UN regional offices also presented to provide technical updates on the regional HIV situation. The UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific presented on the role of cities in ending the AIDS epidemic and reviewed global and regional policies and frameworks, ongoing fast-track approaches and the building blocks for effective city responses towards ending AIDS. UNICEF presented on the elimination of mother-to-child HIV and syphilis transmission and importance of strengthening health information systems, while WHO presented updates on HIV care and treatment and guidelines to fast-track responses.
Despite the successes achieved by the ASEAN Member States over the six-year period, challenges still remain. Some of these include stigma and discrimination, difficulties in scaling up programmes, lost-to-follow up for confirmatory testing and enrolment in ART, inadequate coordination and the need to enhance human resource challenges such as, capacity to implement newly proposed innovative strategies and shortages of health work-force available for the scale up efforts.
Future plans that are being considered by ASEAN Member States for the ASEAN Cities Getting to Zero initiative include conducting a mapping of ASEAN G2Z cities, holding an ASEAN leadership forum on G2Z and an ASEAN cities youth forum.
H.E. Dr Myint Htwe, Union Minister of the Ministry of Health and Sports, Myanmar
“We should not underestimate the effective role that can be played by PLHIV and CBOs especially in hard to reach areas in containing HIV epidemic.”
“Myanmar recognizes human rights [as] the key to effective HIV response to end AIDS by 2030. Myanmar fully supports the idea of removing punitive laws, policies and practices that block access to HIV services for key affected population.”
Mr Oussama Tawil, Country Director, UNAIDS Myanmar
”The expansion of Getting to Zero sites and replication of innovative practices show the strong commitment of the ASEAN Member States to develop effective city-level HIV interventions that reach key populations who need them. Sustained south-south cooperation between the countries is crucial in achieving the goal of ending the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat in the region.”