MANILA, PHILIPPINES (23 February 2005) - The Government of Sweden today signed an agreement to set up a multidonor trust fund at ADB to assist Asia and Pacific's developing countries in their fight against HIV/AIDS, with an initial contribution of $14.3 million.

The Fund will provide grants to help the countries develop comprehensive responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, with a priority given to areas and communities that are especially poor and vulnerable to, or affected by, AIDS.

Intended to be a multidonor facility running for an initial period of four years, the fund will finance new subregional and national HIV/AIDS interventions falling into three major categories - pilot demonstration projects; leadership strengthening and evidence-based capacity building; and program coordination, technical support, and monitoring.

Signing for ADB, President Haruhiko Kuroda said that HIV/AIDS presents a fundamental development challenge that devastates people's lives and is a threat to Asia's economic development and poverty reduction.

"I am pleased to be formalizing this partnership with Sweden on one of the most urgent issues of our time," Mr. Kuroda said. "This is an exciting initiative that, among other things, will help to support some of the activities under the Memorandum of Understanding [MOU] signed with UNAIDS on Monday."

Signing for Sweden, the country's HIV/AIDS Ambassador Lennarth Hjelmaker said that AIDS is top priority on the development agenda for his country, along with sexual and reproductive health and rights.

"HIV/AIDS is not only a medical problem, but an economic and social problem that challenges development and poverty eradication: it covers all sectors of society," he said.

He added that Sweden is working closely through the multilateral system and bilateral cooperation on the issue, stressing a comprehensive approach to fight HIV/AIDS, not only through prevention but also treatment and care.

"We are very happy to increase our support," he said. "We need to work together - and this is a good example."

The pilot demonstration projects will emphasize innovative approaches to fighting HIV/AIDS, with a focus on integrating HIV/AIDS in ADB's non-health sector operations. Special attention will be given to actions that address the needs in prevention and care faced by the poor and vulnerable, including women, people with high-risk behavior, and people living with HIV/AIDS and their families.

Examples might include HIV/AIDS prevention programs for migrant workers, prevention programs attached to ADB supported road and other infrastructure projects, HIV/AIDS as part of the curriculum in ADB education projects, and action plans associated with tourism development.

Nongovernment organizations and other locally based institutions will play a key role in the design and execution of these projects.

Activities in the second category will help develop the knowledge base on which governments and national AIDS councils are planning and carrying out HIV/AIDS activities in the region, support policy development, and build capacity in the areas needed for a comprehensive, effective and cost-efficient response to HIV/AIDS in developing and countries and within ADB itself.

The third category will support the coordination, monitoring, and evaluation of the programs financed by the Cooperation Fund. It will ensure that all activities at a national and subnational level are consistent with national policies and subregional priorities. Partnerships, consultation, and involvement of civil society and people living with, and affected by, HIV/AIDS, as well as other development agencies will characterize the activities financed by the Fund.

All activities financed under the Fund will be monitored and evaluated regularly by ADB, in collaboration with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and other donors that may join the Fund.

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.

Activities financed by the fund will facilitate efficient use of these additional resources through closely monitored pilot projects and local capacity building, and complement and leverage the work of international organizations and donors, maximizing cooperation and minimizing unwarranted overlap.

UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot on Monday signed an MOU with the ADB President to strengthen their AIDS response in the region.

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