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World AIDS Day 2017 promotes “Right to Health”

This year’s World AIDS Day campaign promotes the theme of “Right to Health” and raises awareness of the 36.7 million people worldwide who are living with HIV in realising their rights.
The right to health is interrelated with a range of other rights including the right to clean water, sanitation, decent housing, and access to health services, food, a clean environment and safe working conditions.
“Although Laos has a low HIV prevalence, the UN team working on HIV which includes UNAIDS, WHO and UNFPA has been focusing

Dr Juliet Fleischl and WHO Assistant Director-General for Family, Women, Children and Adolescents, Dr Princess Nothembav Simelela, promote World AIDS Day 2017.

on those in the highest risk groups. This has to be extended to other vulnerable groups, with the objective of ‘leaving no one behind’.
The vulnerable population includes young women, adolescents and migrants who continue to face barriers in accessing HIV and other health services,” said UN Resident Coordinator Ms Kaarina Immonen.
The spouses of clients of sex workers as well as migrants are the groups most affected by HIV/AIDS since 1990. The trend of recently reported HIV cases sees a rise in young women aged 15-24 years. Women continue to be the most vulnerable to the epidemic.
To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a global AIDS strategy was adopted and incorporated into the 2030 Agenda, including the target of ending AIDS by 2030.
WHO Representative Dr Juliet Fleischl reiterated that “To achieve Universal Health Coverage and SDGs, we need to make sure that “Everyone Counts” and no one is left behind. WHO is advocating for access to safe, effective, quality and affordable HIV services, medicines, diagnostics and other health commodities for the people who need them.  There is also a need to integrate HIV services with other health services, such as those related to tuberculosis, hepatitis, sexually transmitted diseases and maternal and child health.”
The good news however is that according to the latest estimates, HIV infection in Laos has been slowly declining with less than 1,000 new infections reported in 2016. It is estimated that 11,500 people are now living with HIV. Of these, an estimated 64 percent know their HIV status and an estimated 41 percent of people living with HIV are receiving Antiretroviral Therapy - less than half of the global target.
However, HIV experts warn that it is still too early for development partners and the donor community to phase out support to AIDS-related matters. Laos is surrounded by the four main contributors to HIV infection in the Asia-Pacific region, namely Thailand, Vietnam, China and Myanmar, who contribute 95 percent of new infections.
Globally, we see significant steps taken this year in meeting the treatment targets towards ending AIDS by 2030. Good progress has been made to advocate for prevention measures among female sex workers. In 2016, an estimated 55 percent of female sex workers have received HIV testing compared to only 18 percent of men who have sex with men.
As the economic growth in the country continues at about 7 percent each year, the HIV epidemic has been concentrated, with pockets of increasing prevalence, among men who have sex with men and transgender populations. Among transgender persons who are engaged in sex work the HIV prevalence was 7 percent as compared to 1.6 percent among those who did not report selling sex.
An estimated US$5 million needs to be invested annually in key populations and into treatment if Laos wants to achieve its national targets by 2020. So far about US$2million is committed. Nearly 100 percent of the HIV budget originates from external sources. More domestic funding for AIDS is needed.
This year, the French Red Cross is leading activities and collaborating with UNAIDS, WHO, UN Women, international NGOs like PSI, Lao non-profit associations and other development partners to conduct a series of activities to mark the 2017 World AIDS Day. These include awareness and advocacy events, a media campaign, a fun fair and a free concert. The events will help raise public awareness on “Know Your HIV Status” and HIV prevention.
 

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update December 2, 2017)


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