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UNAIDS warns Asia targets won’t be reached

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Villagers have an HIV test in Battambang province. Heng Chivoan

UNAIDS warns Asia targets won’t be reached

A new report by UNAIDS shows little progress is being made to fight HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific region.

The onset of Covid-19 has also impacted AIDS response and could disrupt it more as lockdowns have had a big effect on women and girls, according to the UN programme in a report released on Tuesday.

UNAIDS warns that because achievements have not been shared equally within and between countries, global HIV targets set for 2020 will not be reached.

The report warns that even gains made could be lost and progress further stalled if countries fail to act with urgency and double down to reach those that are still left behind.

According to UNAIDS, 300,000 people were newly infected with HIV and 160,000 died of AIDS-related illnesses last year.

More than one-quarter of new HIV infections were among young people aged 15 to 24. The numbers could grow if Covid-19 severely disrupts HIV services.

“There has been progress in the region where new HIV infections have been reduced by 12 per cent since 2010, with reductions in Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

“However new HIV infections are on the rise in Pakistan and the Philippines,” the report said.

UNAIDS said in Asia and the Pacific, only three countries, Australia, Cambodia and Thailand, have achieved the 90–90–90 HIV treatment targets.

The report said that 98 per cent of new HIV infections occurred among key populations and their sexual partners, including gay men and other men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, and people who inject drugs.

HIV-positive people have been discriminated against in general and the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has posed barriers to them receiving treatment and other health needs.

National AIDS Authority (NAA) Secretary-General Chhim Khin Dareth could not yet comment on the report, saying that he has yet to see it. However, he said there are an estimated 73,000 AIDS cases in Cambodia.

The rate of new infections last year, he said, was 0.5 per cent, and that over 61,000 people had tested for the virus. Of the number, 99 per cent had received treatment.

“The rate of receiving treatment services is high and we set a 95-95 target to be achieved by 2025.

“This means 95 per cent of people know they are HIV positive and have tested for the virus, and 95 per cent of those tested receive antiviral treatment,” he said.

He said the outbreak of Covid-19 has not affected service deliveries for AIDS patients because it is delivered separately. For the dispensation of medicine, the patients can use them for three months and some can use them for six months.

UNAIDS is urging countries to increase investment in both diseases.

All international sources of HIV funding declined by 63 per cent from 2010 to 2019, including a 14 per cent drop in US bilateral funding, a 28 per cent decline in global fund contributions and a 28 per cent decline in funding from other international sources.

The declines mostly affected HIV prevention services for key populations, which are heavily dependent on international funding, while domestic resources often prioritise funding for HIV treatment and care.

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