AHF kicks off ambitious new global AIDS treatment goal and campaign during the 11th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP)
BANGKOK, THAILAND (20 November 2013)—As part of a groundbreaking global effort to scale up the number of people on lifesaving AIDS treatment worldwide, representatives from the Asia and U.S. Bureaus of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) will convene a press conference in the Media Centre at the 11th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific on Wednesday, Nov. 20th at 4:00pm local time (16:00) to discuss successes and challenges in fighting the epidemic in the region. The discussion will set the stage for the unveiling of AHF’s ambitious new advocacy initiative, “20 by 20.” The goal of ‘20×20’ is to ensure that 20 million people worldwide are on lifesaving antiretroviral treatment for HIV/AIDS by the year 2020.
The AIDS epidemic remains a serious problem for many countries in the Asia Pacific region, where nearly five million people are living with HIV/AIDS. Cambodia stands out as an example of the progress that has been made in reaching Universal Access to treatment through a constructive collaboration between the national government and AHF. Of the 61 antiretroviral treatment (ART) sites in Cambodia, 28 are supported by AHF; representing 45 percent of the total coverage of those receiving antiretroviral treatment in Cambodia.
While Cambodia offers a successful blueprint for ART rollout in the region, testing policies in many Asian countries such as India lag far behind the international standards. Under current regulation, India’s National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) requires the use of three concurrent serum-based tests to establish an official HIV diagnosis, while WHO recommends the use of only two consecutive blood-based rapid tests, if the first test is positive, and a tie-breaker in case the results from the first two tests do not match.
“The reality is that in India there’s a huge underreported population of HIV positive people who cannot access the care they need because they are unaware of their status as a result of backward testing policies,” said Terri Ford, AHF Chief of Global Advocacy and Policy. “Precious resources are being wasted on redundant testing and the results often are not available the same day, which means many people are lost to care because they do not come back. This is no way to run an effective HIV/AIDS program in a country with the third largest HIV population in the world.”
In China, with support of AHF, positive strides have been made within a number of pilot projects to adopt a streamlined rapid testing model, such as the one currently running at the Beijing Youan Hospital. However, on the national level, rapid testing policies need to be revised for greater accessibility and efficiency.
Only a concerted effort by governments, NGOs and international bodies to scale up access to HIV testing and treatment can ensure that we reach Global AIDS Control. In line with this goal AHF is preparing to launch the “20 by 20” initiative, which aims to get 20 million people on antiretroviral treatment (ART) by 2020.
“Of the thirty-four million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, twenty-four million people still do not have access to AIDS treatment,” said Dr. Chhim Sarath, AHF Asia Bureau Chief, who is based in Cambodia. “Despite funding cuts, billions of dollars have already been committed to fighting AIDS, but these resources need to be re-prioritized toward testing and treatment so that every dollar spent brings us closer to getting at least twenty million people on lifesaving treatment by 2020.”
As part of the ‘20×20’ AIDS treatment campaign, AHF plans to herald the rollout with ‘20×20’ billboards going up in Mexico, Ukraine, Nepal and South Africa. In addition, the first local ‘20×20’ event will take place in South Africa on November 26th.
In 2008, AHF led the way in advocating for getting 10 million people on treatment by 2013 during the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City; a milestone that has been achieved.
“We believe reaching the next ten million by 2020 should be easier. It is still ambitious, but definitely an achievable goal,” added Ms. Ford, “And a matter of life and death for millions.”