Lao delegation travel to New York for High-Level Meeting on AIDS
A Lao Government delegation is in New York this week to attend the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on AIDS from 8-10 June. The Minister of Health, Dr Dalaloy Ponmek, heads the Lao representatives who join the President of the UN General Assembly, Joseph Deiss, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, 30 Heads of State, and representatives from international organizations, civil society and people living with HIV at the meeting.
Thirty years into the AIDS epidemic and 10 years since the historic UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS, the world comes together to review progress and chart the future course of the global AIDS response. World leaders are expected to negotiate a new global declaration on AIDS and to commit to overcoming the remaining barriers to ensure ‘Universal Access' to HIV services.
“Our participation at this high-level meeting is to contribute to the commitment of the international community for a sustained engagement in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” said Dr Dalaloy before leaving for New York. “We have to inspire ourselves with the experiences of other countries and adjust those to our real situation,” he added.
The high level meeting follows on from the regional AIDS consultation held in Bangkok at the end of March where a Lao delegation reported on the successes and challenges faced in achieving universal access to HIV services in Lao PDR. A report launched by UNAIDS last week, “AIDS at 30: Nations at the crossroads”, states that AIDS programmes are having an impact but that now is a defining moment in the epidemic. Without further commitment and financial support the gains achieved could easily be reversed.
In Lao PDR the overall HIV prevalence rate, estimated by the government's Centre for HIV/AIDS/STIs (CHAS), is still low at 0.2 percent of the adult population. However, there are approximately 1,000 new infections each year. Experts say that the potential of a concentrated epidemic among key affected populations is real and intensified efforts are needed.
The Government's new 5-year National Strategy and Action Plan on HIV/AIDS/STIs for 2011-2015 has a strong focus on the key affected populations, including sex workers and their clients, men who have sex with men (MSM), drug users and migrant workers. However, with ever more mobile populations, including rapid urbanization, identifying and accessing networks within the most at risk groups is a challenge.
According to Pascal Stenier from UNAIDS, now is the time to take action, “If in the next 5-years we invest in HIV prevention and treatment this can really make a difference in controlling the epidemic because the numbers are still small.” The Government of Lao PDR is committed to the new UNAIDS vision of, “Zero new infections, Zero discrimination and Zero AIDS related deaths,” in addition to achieving Millennium Development Goal 6 to halt and reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 60 million people have been infected with HIV worldwide and nearly 30 million people have died of HIV-related causes.
Toby Fricker at UNDP Public Information Unit
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