UNDP and Australia join in fight against HIV/AIDS in Viet Nam
Ha Noi - The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the National AIDS Standing Bureau of Viet Nam signed today a new UNDP project that aims to combat the increasing spread of HIV/AIDS in Viet Nam. The project is being funded with generous financial support of over 820,000 USD from the Government of Australia.
Since 1990, when the first HIV/AIDS case was detected in Ho Chi Minh City, the disease has spread rapidly in Viet Nam. Currently, there are an estimated 88,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. Exact figures are difficult to obtain, as many people who carry the virus may not even be aware of their HIV-positive status. According to United Nations estimates, however, the real number of HIV/AIDS cases in Viet Nam could reach a peak level of 160,000 by the end of the year 2000.
Worldwide, a total of 33.6 million people are currently infected by the HIV/AIDS virus. The overwhelming majority of these cases are found in Sub-Saharan Africa (23.3 million) and in South and South-East Asia (six million). In 1999, 5.6 million new infections were recorded and 2.6 million people died from AIDS. Despite some successes in halting and reducing the spread of AIDS in some countries such as Thailand, the global trend is that HIV/AIDS infections will continue to rise for the foreseeable future.
At today's signing ceremony, Mr Edouard Wattez, Resident Representative of the UNDP in Viet Nam, explained that the new project is focused on providing technical assistance to enhance institutional capacity development of the HIV/AIDS sector in Viet Nam. The UNDP project will work closely with the National AIDS Standing Bureau (NAB), who lead the Governmentÿs response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) will also be directly involved in the project, illustrating the collaborative efforts of UNDP, UNAIDS and the Government of Australia to support the Government of Viet Nam in the important field of HIV/AIDS.
Australian Ambassador, Mr Michael Mann, noted Australia's history of cooperation with Viet Nam in the fight against HIV/AIDS and recounted Australia's own domestic experiences. "The successes of the partnership model in Australia underscores the importance of ensuring the views and perspectives of those most affected by HIV/AIDS are respected," said Ambassador Mann. He emphasized how HIV/AIDS also poses a problem for further economic development in any community. "Both Australia and Vietnam recognize that HIV/AIDS is not just a public health concern, but presents serious social and economic challenges," he said.
Mr Wattez noted how "strengthened capacity and better trained staff will enable the NAB to formulate and implement more effective policies and strategies to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and to prevent the further spread of the disease."
Building on the lessons learned from a previous UNDP HIV/AIDS project, a comprehensive evaluation of the national AIDS programme will be undertaken, assessing both its effectiveness and constraints, and offering recommendations relating to aspects of implementation, management and staff training needs.
The Provincial People's Committees of Hai Duong, Lang Son and Da Nang will be directly involved in the project as co-implementing agencies. These decentralized implementation arrangements aim to step up the fight against AIDS at the provincial and local levels.The funding from Australia is part of the Australian Government's overseas aid programme. The Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) provides over 72 million AUD (43 million USD) in annual development cooperation assistance to Viet Nam. The Australian Government recently announced a six-year 200 million AUD (120 million USD) Global HIV/AIDS initiative, coinciding with recent calls within ASEAN for greater commitment of resources to address HIV/AIDS. Australia aims to work closely with its ASEAN partners on this issue, recognizing the threat that HIV/AIDS presents to sustained economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region.