AIDS PROGRAMMES NOT TARGETING THOSE MOST IN NEED
Some developing countries are failing to target their HIV/AIDS prevention work on the very populations where the disease is most prevalent, despite a significant increase in UK and international funding for HIV/AIDS programmes, says today's report from the House of Commons International Development Committee. Publication of the report, "HIV/AIDS: Marginalised groups and emerging epidemics", coincides with World AIDS Day on 1 December.
The Chairman of the International Development Committee, Malcolm Bruce MP says, "On this 19th World AIDS Day, we cannot yet claim to be on target to achieve the goal set at the G8 summit at Gleneagles last year for universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment by 2010. There is no doubt that the world has the capacity to tackle this scourge. The UK is already playing a leading role in that effort but the Government needs to set transparent benchmarks for precisely how the UK contributes. These international goals will only be achieved by facing reality, tackling stigma and discrimination, and reaching all at-risk people, including marginalised groups."
The report cites the 2006 UNAIDS Report which highlighted that the emerging epidemics in Eastern Europe and Asia are being driven by marginalised groups including commercial sex workers, intravenous drug users, men who have sex with men and prisoners. However, systematic work to address the prevention, treatment and care needs of these "key populations" has been lacking in many countries where HIV/AIDS epidemics have emerged. Shocking statistics demonstrate how pressing this issue is. For example, 41% of those in the South Africa penal system are living with HIV; and in China, injecting drug users account for almost half (44%) and sex workers and their clients almost 1 in 5 (19%) of people living with HIV.
The existence of these groups is often denied or the illegal nature of their activity means that governments fail to take action appropriate to their needs. The challenge is to urge governments to put moral issues aside and focus on finding the most effective ways of halting HIV/AIDS. Malcolm Bruce MP went on to say, "Some of the increase in international funding for AIDS prevention has come from faith-based organisations who face moral dilemmas in dealing with marginalised groups. It is essential, however, that these high-risk groups are targeted by appropriate programmes if we are to halt the spread of HIV and AIDS."
Emerging epidemics generally start with concentrated epidemics among marginalised groups which can then spread beyond these contained groups to the wider population. Countries may then face a hyper-epidemic where HIV can spread exponentially as can be seen in many southern African countries.
The Committee praises the UK and the international community for channeling money to countries' national AIDS programmes. More money still is needed. And DFID needs to work with governments to ensure that these funds are properly focused. General AIDS prevention programmes should not be getting the lion's share of the resources available when marginalised communities are in fact key to an effective response to the epidemic. ENDS
The report will be published on Friday 1 December at 00:01 hrs as HC 46-I of Session 2006-07.
Volume II of the Report, containing the oral and written evidence, will be published shortly: a further press notice will be issued giving the publication details.
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The membership of the Committee is as follows: Malcolm Bruce MP (Chairman, Lib Dem), John Barrett MP (Lib Dem), John Battle MP (Lab), John Bercow MP (Con), Hugh Bayley MP (Lab), Richard Burden MP (Lab), Mr Quentin Davies MP (Con), James Duddridge MP (Con), Ann McKechin MP (Lab), Joan Ruddock MP (Lab), Mr Marsha Singh (Lab).
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