UNAIDS To Provide HIV Prevention, Treatment Programs

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UNAIDS aims to provide HIV prevention and treatmentservices to 80% of injection drug users in the Asia-Pacific region during thenext two years, UNAIDS Asia-Pacific Director Prasada Rao said Thursday at the First Asian Consultation on Prevention of HIVRelated to Drug Use,the Sydney Morning Herald reports. The conference -- whichwas held from Jan. 28 through Jan. 31 in Goa, India --brought together more than 400 politicians, policymakers, HIV/AIDS serviceproviders and IDUs from 20 Asian countries (Wade, Sydney Morning Herald,2/1).

Conference attendees discussed the need to educate policymakers about HIV andinjection drug use and motivate them to examine government responses to theproblem, the Navhind Times reports. A statement of commitment draftedduring a parliamentarian workshop at the conference called for policymakers todevelop policies and programs aimed at decriminalizing injection drug use;developing HIV education, prevention and treatment programs for IDUs; andencouraging the public to make behavior changes aimed at reducing the spread ofthe virus among IDUs.

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Members of the International Network of People WhoUse Drugs in adeclaration released at the conference called on governments, agencies andnongovernmental organizations in the region to provide access to affordableantiretroviral drugs for IDUs. The declaration also called on conferenceattendees to empower communities to "advocate and protect" the rightsof IDUs and to "facilitate meaningful participation in decision-making onissues affecting" IDUs (Navhind Times, 2/1).

Rao at the conference said that between 3% and 8% of IDUs in Asiacurrently have access to HIV treatment and prevention programs. He added that"hard" intervention programs are needed to reduce the spread of HIVamong IDUs in the region, adding that "soft" programs, such as thosefocusing on public education, are inadequate. Countries that hoped HIVeducation programs targeted at the general population would reduce the spreadof the virus among IDUs have not seen results, Rao said, adding that HIVprevalence among IDUs in some countries has "skyrocketed" to 90%.

John Godwin -- an HIV adviser for Australian aid agency AusAID, which was a sponsor of the conference -- saidthe "landmark" conference would help shape governments' responses tothe spread of HIV in the region. According to the Morning Herald,about half of the estimated 13 million IDUs worldwide live in Asia-Pacificcountries, and injection drug use has become the main mode of HIV transmissionin the region (Sydney Morning Herald, 2/1).

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