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Australia helps fight HIV/AIDS in Mekong region



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M EDIA RELEASE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS ALEXANDER DOWNER

AA65 28 July 1998

AUSTRALIA HELPS FIGHT HIV/AIDS IN MEKONG REGION

I am pleased to announce a major new initiative in Australia’s continuing program of assistance to help combat HIV/AIDS in the Mekong sub-region of South East Asia.

The Australian Government will fund a $5 million Mekong Regional HTV/AIDS Initiative in support of a sub-regional strategy to address the HIV epidemic.

HIV/AIDS is a rapidly growing problem in the Mekong sub-region, which comprises Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Yunnan Province of China, Laos and Burma.

Fast-moving epidemics in Cambodia and Burma are intensifying the spread of the epidemic across the sub-region, leading to increasing social and economic costs for individuals, families and governments.

UNAIDS has estimated that across the whole of South and South East Asia, six million adults and children are living with HIV/AIDS, the majority of those infected between the ages of 15 and 35 years.

I announced in the Budget in May, $1 million in direct funding for activities in the Mekong sub-region, and am happy to announce today that this amount has been increased to a total $5 million to be spent over three years.

The funds, to be allocated through the Government’s aid agency, AusAID, will be used initially to support regional coordination of HIV/AIDS activities and to strengthen local non-government and community organisations working on the disease. Assistance to non-government and community organisations will in part be in the form of small grants managed by AusAID staff in the sub-region, enabling quick, flexible responses.

The Mekong Regional HIV/AIDS Initiative will support a regional HIV/AIDS strategy initiated at a meeting hosted by Australia in Bangkok in December 1997. The strategy aims to increase the effectiveness of multi-country responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemic across the Mekong sub-region and will focus on issues such as increased distribution of condoms; management, prevention and care of sexually transmitted diseases; increased care for affected individuals; and education programs.

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Because the problems associated with the spread of HIV/AIDS are shared by all countries of the sub-region and the nature of the disease defies national borders, a sub-regional approach in addition to individual national responses is seen as particularly valuable.

MANILA

Media Contacts: Innes Willox (Minister’s office - Manila) 0011 63 917 815 1005 Keith Scott (AusAID) 02 6206 4971

Media releases and speeches are available from AusAID via the Internet, http://www.ausaid.gov.au