Fight Strengthens Against HIV/AIDS and Other Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Committed to preventing and controlling the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS, programme managers in the recent World Health Organization (WHO) workshop shifted the fight against STIs to a higher gear.
Over 20 participants from countries and areas in the Western Pacific Region attended the Workshop for STI and HIV/AIDS Programme Managers in Manila, Philippines from 29 September to 1 October. The participants reviewed the progress of sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS programmes and shared developments and lessons learned in STI and HIV/AIDS surveillance, prevention and care.
Dr Shigeru Omi, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific warned that about one million people in the Region are now infected with HIV. He said that although HIV transmission is stabilizing in a number of countries, the epidemic is rapidly increasing in many countries in the Region.
"The AIDS problem is serious and needs priority attention. We should not be complacent as the danger of expansion exists in many areas," Dr Omi said as he urged programme managers to help develop effective programme and management strategies. "If we act quickly and appropriately, we still have a chance to slow down this increasing transmission."
With the number of AIDS cases increasing rapidly in some countries in the Region, workshop participants stressed the importance of undertaking behavioural surveillance in order to identify and monitor risk behaviour and to assist in focusing prevention efforts on groups at highest risk and the need for a comprehensive AIDS care programme to include medical, psychological, palliative and social care. Moreover, the participation of people living with HIV and AIDS in HIV prevention, advocacy and AIDS care programmes should be ensured and supported.
Participants of the workshop also recognized that condom promotion is a priority strategy for the prevention of HIV infection and sexually transmitted infections, especially among vulnerable groups such as commercial sex workers, the clients of sex workers, young people, mobile populations and men having sex with men.
The workshop also identified some aspects of STI and HIV/AIDS programmes that need further action. These include better use of surveillance data to develop effective programmes and the need to develop comprehensive AIDS care programmes.
For the next two years, ten targets have been proposed involving the implementation of an STI, HIV and AIDS public education programme for the general population and the youth; improving condom distribution and strengthening promotion programmes targeting high-risk behaviour groups; development of guidelines for medical, community and home-based care; and the establishment of a mechanism guaranteeing the safety of blood supply.
Dr Omi expressed WHO's commitment to support these activities by providing technical support to strengthen the technical content and management of national STI and HIV/AIDS programmes.
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