UNAIDS aims to provide HIV prevention and treatment services to 80% of injection drug users in the Asia-Pacific region during the next two years, UNAIDS Asia-Pacific Director Prasada Rao said Thursday at the First Asian Consultation on Prevention of HIV Related to Drug Use, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. The conference -- which was held from Jan. 28 through Jan. 31 in Goa, India -- brought together more than 400 politicians, policymakers, HIV/AIDS service providers and injecting drug users (IDUs) from 20 Asian countries.
Conference attendees discussed the need to educate policymakers about HIV and injection drug use and motivate them to examine government responses to the problem, the Navhind Times reports. A statement of commitment drafted during a parliamentarian workshop at the conference called for policymakers to develop policies and programs aimed at decriminalizing injection drug use; developing HIV education, prevention and treatment programs for IDUs; and encouraging the public to make behavior changes aimed at reducing the spread of the virus among IDUs.
Members of the International Network of People Who Use Drugs in a declaration released at the conference called on governments, agencies and nongovernmental organizations in the region to provide access to affordable antiretroviral drugs for IDUs. The declaration also called on conference attendees to empower communities to 'advocate and protect' the rights of IDUs and to 'facilitate meaningful participation in decision-making on issues affecting' IDUs.
Rao at the conference said that between 3% and 8% of IDUs in Asia currently have access to HIV treatment and prevention programs. He added that 'hard' intervention programs are needed to reduce the spread of HIV among IDUs in the region, adding that 'soft' programs, such as those focusing on public education, are inadequate. Countries that hoped HIV education programs targeted at the general population would reduce the spread of the virus among IDUs have not seen results, Rao said, adding that HIV prevalence 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 -- said the 'landmark' conference would help shape governments' responses to the spread of HIV in the region. According to the Morning Herald, about half of the estimated 13 million IDUs worldwide live in Asia-Pacific countries, and injection drug use has become the main mode of HIV transmission in the region.
Source: KAISER FAMILY FOUNDATION