Urgent measures needed to address rising HIV epidemic in the Western Pacific
Sixtieth Session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, 21-25 September 2009, Hong Kong (China)
HONG KONG (China), 24 September 2009—The World Health Organization (WHO) today warned that despite intensified HIV interventions, achievements could be undermined if urgent measures are not taken to address factors that accelerate the HIV epidemic.
Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, said that although the HIV epidemic remains at a low level in most countries in the Region, Papua New Guinea has a generalized epidemic while Cambodia, China, Malaysia and Viet Nam have concentrated HIV epidemics in people with high-risk behaviour. The epidemics in these five countries make up the bulk of HIV burden in the Region. WHO noted that HIV transmission in the region is driven primarily by high-risk behaviour, including unprotected commercial sex, unprotected sex between men and unsafe injecting drug use.
"Gains in controlling the epidemic could be undermined if urgent measures are not taken to address factors that sustain and accelerate the HIV epidemic," Dr Shin warned. He said that even with the current pace of progress in scaling up HIV interventions, the Western Pacific Region still faces challenges to achieving the goal of universal access to comprehensive prevention, treatment, care and support programmes by 2010.
There are a number of areas where HIV/AIDS programmes need to be further strengthened:
- Male-to-male sex: This continues to be a major source of new HIV infections in Asia and the Pacific, where an estimated 20 million men are having sex with men, and the response has been slow, fragmented and of insufficient scale.
- Mother-to-child transmission of HIV and paediatric HIV: Prevention is an essential and high-impact strategy, but must be linked to other programmes such as reproductive health and interventions for adolescent, maternal, newborn and child health.
- HIV testing and counselling: The up take of this service is low in many countries.
- Scale up of antiretroviral therapy: Despite the eight-fold increase, there is a need to increase the coverage of people receiving antiretroviral drugs.
- HIV/TB co-infection: This has become more complicated by emerging multidrug-resistance and extensive drug-resistant TB.
Following Dr Shin's report, the Regional Committee urged Member States to:
- Provide high-level government participation in national HIV committees
- Invest in health sector responses, in particular scale up HIV testing, counselling, antiretroviral treatment and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV
- Expand and accelerate interventions for most at-risk populations, especially through partnerships with support groups and civil society.
- Ensure community involvement in HIV/AIDS policy and programming
- Strive to strengthen strategic information.
The Regional Committee is meeting in Hong Kong (China) from 21 to 25 September to review WHO's work in the Western Pacific and to formulate directions WHO in the Western Pacific should take.
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