MANILA, PHILIPPINES (22 February 2005) - ADB and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) yesterday to strengthen the AIDS response in Asia and the Pacific.

As part of the MOU, UNAIDS and the ADB will work together to engage political leaders and various sectors in the fight against AIDS, strengthen national capacity, and generate additional funds for AIDS in the region.

Signing the MOU at ADB's Manila Headquarters were ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda and UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot.

"HIV/AIDS is a human tragedy and a real and growing threat to the economic prosperity of the Asia and Pacific region," Mr. Kuroda said at the signing ceremony.

"For example, an average of 5.6 million people will be impoverished by HIV/AIDS every year between now and 2015 in just four of our regional member countries, in effect negating a portion of the poverty reduction efforts in these countries. As a broad-based development institution focused on poverty alleviation, ADB cannot ignore this threat, nor can we simply leave it to others to address."

ADB's shareholders have indicated their concern about the spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the region and have decided to allocate 2% of total Asian Development Fund resources (or $140 million) as grants to fight HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases.

Further strengthening ADB's work on the AIDS issue, the Government of Sweden is also set to sign on Wednesday an agreement to establish a multidonor HIV/AIDS trust fund at ADB with an initial contribution of $14.3 million.

At the MOU signing, Dr Piot praised ADB for its renewed commitment. "As AIDS becomes increasingly part of our lives, the response to the epidemic should be part of the core business of every institution dedicated to poverty alleviation and economic and social development. In Asia and the Pacific ADB is stepping up to the responsibility and taking a leading role."

Mr. Kuroda said partnerships are crucial to addressing the multi-faceted challenge of AIDS.

"The MOU presents an opportunity for our institutions to create synergies based on our respective strengths," he said.

"As the world's leading advocate for action against HIV/AIDS, UNAIDS has developed significant knowledge and networks in the field. ADB, on the other hand, is well positioned to mobilize resources and support national leaders in developing effective responses."

Mr. Kuroda added that both UNAIDS and ADB recognize that AIDS is not simply a health issue and cannot be addressed through the health sector alone. "National leaders must spearhead the fight, with comprehensive support from national planning agencies, finance, energy, transport and communication, education, and other ministries, as well as civil society and the private sector. Here, ADB's strong and long-standing relationship with government planning and line agencies can open opportunities for harnessing their involvement in the fight against AIDS," Mr Kuroda added.

UNAIDS is the main advocate for global action on the epidemic. Its aim is to prevent HIV transmission, provide care and support, reduce the vulnerability of individuals and communities to AIDS, and alleviate the impact of the epidemic.

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