Joint UNFPA/WHO meeting on 100% condom use programme

News release

Manila, 3 October 2006—In the sex industry, "No condom, no sex" is the policy the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) will be promoting at a joint meeting here this week on HIV/AIDS.

The three-day meeting, which opens today, seeks to identify strategies for scaling up proven interventions, particularly condom use, among sex workers and their clients. The meeting will also look into mobilization of resources and support needed from UNFPA, WHO and other stakeholders.

“HIV/AIDS prevention presents enormous challenges as it touches on some of society’s most vulnerable people and some of the most difficult to reach,” said Dr Richard Nesbit, acting WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific. “There are many AIDS success stories in terms of prevention, but the failure to act effectively has led to more than 40 million people infected with HIV globally and 25 million deaths.”

In 2005 alone, there were over 5 million new HIV infections globally and 3 million deaths. "However", said Dr Nesbit," it is possible to turn the AIDS epidemic around by preventing millions from becoming infected".

The nationwide expansion in Cambodia of the 100% condom use programme in 2000 has shown dramatic results, with a more than 80% reduction of new HIV infections since the peak of the epidemic.

In the well-established sex industry in Thailand, local health authorities addressed the country’s rapid explosion of HIV infections by distributing condoms to sex establishments and teaching sex workers how to negotiate for condom use. The police were also enlisted to support the programme.

In Thailand, rates of curable sexually transmitted infections dropped by 95% in the 1990s. For example, the once common chancroid, which causes genital ulcers, is now rare. By 2002, an estimated 5.7 million HIV infections had been averted, involving not only sex workers and their clients, but also large numbers of people at lower levels of risk.

Besides the nationwide implementation of the 100% condom use programme in Cambodia and Thailand, the programme is being used in various stages in China, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mongolia, the Philippines and Viet Nam. However, coverage is limited. “Despite successes, coverage of even basic prevention interventions for sex workers remains less than 20% in the Region and worldwide,” Dr Nesbit said.

The Manila meeting seeks to develop a road map on strategies for nationwide expansion of the 100% condom use programme in line with the goal of universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010. The meeting is attended by decision-makers from the ministries of health from Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Fiji, Guam, Indonesia, Kiribati, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam. Other participants include members of civil society, beneficiaries involved in the 100% condom use programme, public security officials and the World Health Organization.

For more information, please contact Dr Bernard Fabre-Teste, Regional Adviser in Sexually Transmitted Diseases including HIV/AIDS, at (+63 2) 528 9714 or email: fabretesteb@wpro.who.int.

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