World AIDS Day 2012: Introduction of New HIV Projects in Myanmar and the Philippines

Remarks by ADB Vice-President Stephen P. Groff on 3 December 2012 at the ADB Headquarters in Manila, Philippines

Good morning, distinguished guests [Assistant Secretary Madeleine Valera from the Department of Health, Ms. Chiyo Kanda from the World Bank, Ms. Wedekull from ADB’s Board of Directors], ADB colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.

Today, as we remember that HIV/AIDS remains a challenge in Asia and the Pacific, we also pay tribute to the extraordinary efforts of colleagues and partners who work tirelessly to get results in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

In this year’s World AIDS Day Report, UNAIDS reported that there are fewer new infections across the world in 2011 compared to ten years ago--in 2001. This is an achievement to be celebrated. However, the report also notes that epidemics continue to expand in some countries. Seven out of nine countries worldwide experiencing increased incidence are ADB developing member countries in Asia. While much progress has been achieved, more remains to be done.

The Asia and the Pacific region is currently home to 5 million HIV infected people. The HIV/AIDS epidemics in the region are driven by specific behaviors that put people at higher risk of HIV infection. The spread of HIV is linked to gender inequality, poverty, stigma and discrimination, and is reinforced by misinformation.

I am very pleased to announce that ADB has just approved a technical assistance (TA) project for Myanmar for Strengthening Local Response to Address HIV Risks along the Economic Corridors in Myanmar. In addition, a TA for HIV Prevention in the Big Cities in the Philippines is under preparation. You have just heard from Assistant Secretary Madeleine Valera (DOH) and Myo Thant (ADB) a very accurate analysis of the present HIV/AIDS situation in these countries. These two projects will hopefully showcase the effectiveness of focused and strategic approaches to tackling the HIV/AIDS epidemics.

Myanmar is undergoing a major economic, social, and political transformation which is expected to increase connectivity, mobility and trade, including across the Greater Mekong Subregion countries. These positive changes could, however, also potentially have negative impacts, which include spread of communicable diseases and increased vulnerability of affected communities to HIV infection and human trafficking. The new TA will help mitigate HIV risks associated with economic corridor development. It will strengthen local response to HIV and other health threats through improved awareness and positive behavioral changes, better access to and quality of health services among key affected populations along the economic corridors and cross-border areas. The TA will enhance cooperation between local authorities in the border provinces/states of Myanmar, PRC and Thailand along the GMS Economic Corridors on health and social services that address HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and human trafficking. It is aligned with the Myanmar National Strategic Plan on HIV and AIDS (2011-2015) and will be implemented in close partnership with the UN technical agencies and international and local NGOs/CBOs.

The 2012 UNAIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic reported that the Philippines is one of the seven Asian countries with increasing HIV cases. At the High-Level Meeting on AIDS in New York in 2011, ADB and the World Bank agreed to support the Philippine Government in implementing its AIDS Medium Term Plan (2011-2016) with emphasis on generating evidence for cost-effective, high-impact interventions targeting key affected populations in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu. ADB and the World Bank, together with the Philippines’ Department of Health designed a project that will focus on high-quality services provision, providing information to targeted groups and advocacy among key stakeholders. The TA under preparation represents a major opportunity to curb further growth of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Both the projects will be financed on a grant basis by the Cooperation Fund for Fighting HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific. I would like to express appreciation to the Government of Sweden as the sole contributor to the Fund, and to the World Bank, which is also contributing funds [$500,000] for the Philippines TA.

In closing, I will take this opportunity to emphasize that we are now in the final three years of working together with countries of this region to achieve the Millennium Development Goal target for reducing HIV/AIDS. I wish to re-confirm ADB’s commitment to supporting its developing member countries in implementing cost effective responses that are relevant to the specific needs of the countries and the region.

Thank you.