UNAIDS and ESCAP call for bold leadership to galvanize action and accelerate efforts in the response to HIV in Asia and the Pacific to end AIDS by 2030
BANGKOK, 27 November 2018— The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and UNAIDS called on all regional partners to take unprecedented and bold actions to advance efforts to end AIDS in the region by 2030.
Government delegates, leading civil society voices and UN partners gathered today at the Asia Pacific Expert Group Meeting on “Reviewing the Implementation of Commitments from the Asia Pacific Intergovernmental Meeting on HIV and AIDS Beyond 2015” to review progress in achieving the commitments contained in the “Asia Pacific Regional Framework for Action on HIV and AIDS Beyond 2015”, which was adopted in January 2015.
The Expert Group Meeting, organized by ESCAP jointly with UNAIDS, UNDP, UNODC and other UN agencies, reported on progress across three pillars including legal and policy barriers; access to affordable medicines, diagnostics and vaccines; and evidence-based national HIV investment cases and sustainability plans. The meeting focused on critical challenges that require immediate interventions in order to accelerate progress towards reaching the HIV Fast-Track Targets.
The outcome of the meeting is contained in the Chair’s summary statement on the meeting’s proceedings presented to Member States of ESCAP in the Fifth Session of the Committee on Social Development, due to be held from 28 to 30 November 2018.
Need to fast-track the HIV response in the region
AIDS is not over in Asia and the Pacific and there is no room for complacency. Prevention is lagging behind. In 2017, 280,000 people became infected with HIV in the region. Although new infections declined by 14% between 2010 and 2017, progress has slowed in recent years and new infections are on the rise in some countries, including in Pakistan and the Philippines where new HIV infections have increased by 45% and 174% respectively.
Although 74% of people living with HIV in the region were aware of their status at the end of 2017, up from 70% in 2016, around 1.3 million people living with HIV did not know their status. A significant proportion of people living with HIV are diagnosed late – when they are already ill and symptomatic. Delaying initiating HIV treatment undermines its immediate benefits and increases the risk of long-term complications.
“The time to accelerate our efforts is now. We cannot stop new HIV infections in the region if we stick to business as usual. We need renewed commitment to our HIV responses, bold political leadership, community support and honoring the promise to leave no one behind” said Eamonn Murphy, UNAIDS Regional Director.
Priorities to scale up action in the region
Participants at the meeting emphasized that the ‘Pacific Regional Framework for Action on HIV and AIDS Beyond 2015’ was a useful tool for guiding national efforts towards accelerating action and investment in the HIV response, promoting access to affordable medicines and reviewing legal and policy barriers to end AIDS by 2030. However, if the region is to reach that goal, the pace of progress needs to substantially quicken.
Participants discussed progress against 90–90–90 treatment targets, with civil society representatives calling for more community-based HIV services. Although the epidemic in the region is concentrated among key populations, less than 8% of overall AIDS spending is dedicated to HIV prevention among such populations. One of the most pressing challenges for the region is how to ensure that the AIDS response remains financially sustainable.
Legal and policy barriers continue to impede the HIV response. Key populations continue to face stigma and discrimination that prevent them from accessing services and taking actions to protect their health. “It is clear that when we leave someone behind, we have not only lost the battle with HIV, but we have also lost the opportunity to make our countries just and equitable for all people, no matter who or what they are” said H.E. Ieng Mouly, Senior Minister and Chair of the National AIDS Authority, Cambodia.
Participants shared successful experiences of innovative and evidence-based HIV responses that are effective and financially sustainable, with a view to adapt and scale them up across the region. Examples ranged from innovative HIV prevention and testing services, including PrEP and self-testing, to harm reduction strategies with a human right based approach.
Participants identified priorities for action to accelerate the HIV response, including strengthening collaboration across sectors, through South-to-South cooperation and with the meaningful participation of civil society. “Real progress has been made across our region, but countries in Asia Pacific cannot be complacent as they risk undoing hard won gains in the battle against HIV. An effective HIV response is possible only with seamless partnerships across countries, across sectors and across agencies” said Kaveh Zahedi, Deputy Executive Secretary of ESCAP, speaking at the session.
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