ADB to Study Socioeconomic Impact of HIV/AIDS in the Pacific

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - ADB will study the socioeconomic implications of HIV/AIDS in the Pacific to help strengthen the regional response to the epidemic in the region through a technical assistance (TA) grant approved for US$300,000.

The TA will produce analytical studies on the impact of HIV/AIDS on poverty in three Pacific countries, on the economic impact of HIV/AIDS at the national level in the Pacific, and on the high-risk behavior of Pacific seafarers.

These studies aim to help enhance technical knowledge in HIV/AIDS programs and policies, and raise awareness and increase understanding among key decision makers in Pacific developing member countries (PDMCs) of ADB of the critical HIV/AIDS issues.

"There is little known about the socioeconomic impacts of HIV/AIDS in the Pacific - it is largely seen as a health issue, but as a social issue, it is perceived to be confined to marginalized groups such as sex workers," says Indu Bhushan, Director of ADB's Pacific Operations Division.

"Effective advocacy with policymakers and leaders needs a sound knowledge base and targeted and widespread dissemination of that knowledge."

The HIV/AIDS epidemic is firmly established and is growing rapidly in the Pacific. There has been a rapid increase in the number of reported HIV cases in almost all countries in the region. However, these numbers are widely believed to be underestimated because of inadequate surveillance and weak capacity to diagnose the infection.

While most infections to date have been in Papua New Guinea and the Fiji Islands, other Pacific countries remain vulnerable to the epidemic due to their small size, high level of mobility within and outside the region, lack of knowledge about the infection among the general population, and inadequate health sector infrastructure.

Support for social services, including HIV/AIDS-related activities, is one of the three pillars of ADB's Pacific strategy. A separate regional TA is assessing the HIV/AIDS situation in the Pacific and identifying appropriate interventions for ADB, and a regional approach to addressing the epidemic is proposed.

The TA will also provide support for a Pacific regional conference of leaders, key stakeholders, and development partners. The conference, slated for October 2005 and being organized by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), is the first regional Pacific HIV/AIDS conference since 1999. Other development partners supporting the conference are the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, Pacific Islands AIDS Foundations, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and Auckland University of Technology.

The TA is due for completion in October 2005.