Thailand hosts global HIV meeting this week, showcases AIDS response leadership
BANGKOK, 11 December 2022—The 51st meeting of the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board (PCB) will be held from December 13 – 16 in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The meeting is hosted by the Government of Thailand as Chair of the 2022 PCB. It is the first time in 14 years that the board will meet outside Geneva, Switzerland and the second time it will be in Chiang Mai.
“We are grateful to Thailand for its global AIDS response leadership. The country has taken significant strides toward ending its HIV epidemic and is setting an example for the world of translating political will into action,” said Taoufik Bakkali, Director a.i. of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific.
The UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board meeting demonstrates an inclusive approach. Civil society organizations, including associations of people living with HIV, will sit around the table with member states and UN agencies. The attendees will go together to visit and learn from programmes supporting affected people.
“This inclusivity is at the heart of the effectiveness of the UNAIDS approach,” said Mr Bakkali. “It is increasingly being asked of international processes where are they being held, who is participating, and how is the process connecting with experiences of the most affected people. This meeting is being held in a country which has so many lessons to share from its AIDS response.”
The UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board provides oversight and strategic direction for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS, which guides and supports the HIV response globally.
The 22nd PCB meeting in 2008 was also held in Chiang Mai under the auspices of former Public Health Minister, Chavarat Charnvirakul. This meeting will be chaired by his son, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul.
The Thailand HIV response
There were an estimated 520,000 people living with HIV in 2021.
Thailand has made considerable progress against AIDS, especially in providing life-saving testing and treatment to people living with HIV. The country was first in the region to be validated as having eliminated mother-to-child HIV transmission in 2016. It has also joined the Global Partnership to Eliminate all Forms of HIV-related Stigma and Discrimination.
Since 2010, AIDS-related deaths have declined by almost two-thirds (65%) while new infections fell by 58%. Last year an estimated 94% of people living with HIV in Thailand were aware of their status. Ninety-one percent of diagnosed people were on treatment and 97% of those on treatment achieved viral suppression.
Ahead of the PCB, delegates will learn about notable Thailand HIV response successes. The country has been a trailblazer for integrating HIV services into the Universal Health Coverage scheme. This has become a mechanism for sustainable HIV response financing by significantly increasing investments in key population- and community-led health services.
Thailand has leveraged several best practices to end AIDS, including legalizing over-the-counter sales of HIV self-test kits, scaling up same-day treatment initiation for newly diagnosed people and successfully rolling-out a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) programme. (PrEP is a daily medicine taken by an HIV negative person to prevent contracting the virus.)
“Thailand is on-track to meet and exceed the 2025 95% testing and treatment targets. To do so it must reach those still not accessing HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care services,” said UNAIDS Country Director for Thailand, Patchara Benjarattanaporn.
She noted that a key priority now is for Thailand to get people diagnosed earlier and further reduce new infections. Last year there were an estimated 6500 new HIV infections in Thailand. Critically, half of all new infections occur among young people between ages 15 and 24, most of them to people in key population communities.
“Thailand provides excellent HIV services. Unfortunately, too many young people do not get the prevention information, services and support they need. And some people living with HIV become aware of their status late, with already advanced illness. As we work to reach those being left behind, we must address inequalities in access to information, services and support and continue to innovate and scale up effective, community-led approaches,” Ms. Benjarattanaporn said. “Through bold action to tackle inequalities, we can end AIDS by 2030.”