More than 3,500 delegates from ever 60 countries in Asia and the Pacific are expected to participate in the 8th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific to be held at the BMICH from August 19 ? 23, 2007.
This four-day congress, which will bring together politicians, government officials, medical experts, academics, people living with HIV/AIDS, community workers and the media will discuss a wide range of issues, with regard to this deadly epidemic confronting this region, it was announced at a news conference last week.
Seven regional congresses have been held so far, from the inaugural summit in Canberra, Australia in 1990. It was followed in New Delhi, India (1993), Chiang Mai, Thailand (1995), Manila, Philippines (1997), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (1999), Melbourne, Australia (2001) and Kobe, Japan (2005). The eighth venue, Colombo, Sri Lanka, is the first occasion where a top level summit on this topic is taking place in a low HIV prevalent country.
`Compared to the rest of the region, the number of people living with HIV in Sri Lanka is relatively low. While the reported number of people living with HIV is nearly 750, with approximately 200 having gone on to develop AIDS, it is estimated that about 5,000 people may be living with HIV in Sri Lanka,` said Dr. Athula Kahandaliyanage, Director General, Healthcare Services, who represented Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, who couldn`t attend due to other official engagements.
`However, the authorities with the support of the UN, INGOs and local NGOs are conscious that the country cannot be too complacent, because it has a low prevalence status. Every effort is being made to create awareness on HIV/AIDS and provide treatment and care to those who have been infected and affected,` he said.
`At the last ICAAP meeting in Kobe in 2005, one of the critical points made was that the epidemic in Asia and the Pacific is spreading at a faster rate than in Africa, rapidly expanding in East Asia, particularly China, and that if this continues, it is possible that the total number of HIV infected people in the region will reach around 20 million in 2010,` Dr. Kahandaliyanage said.
It was noted that the epidemic which used to spread through groups who practice high risk behaviour, such as estate workers.
IDUs (injecting drug users) and MSM (men who have intimacy with men) had spread increasingly among the breeder population, including young people.
The 8th ICAAP is organised and presented by the Ministry of Health on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka, with the support of UNAIDS, UN Agencies, based in Colombo, and a string of NGOs and community based workers.
The theme of the 8th ICAAP is `Waves of Change, Waves of Hope.` Prof. A. H. Sheriffdeen, co-chair, 8th ICAAP speaking on the theme, said that Waves of Change signify many things happening, while taking into account achievements in the past and creating goals for the future. It also implies the need for much more work. The perpetually changing face of HIV/AIDS demands a unilateral and dynamic response. It calls for empowering people, especially women, who are at the greatest risk of contracting the virus. But, like the ebb and flow of waves, the work required to battle HIV/AIDS can be adapted to suit communities and cultures across the globe.
`With global commitment, come the Waves of Hope. Commitment bring on additional changes and each positive step taken, like a ripple-effect, spells progress. With every wave comes the expectation of another.
The waves keep coming, they are ceaseless. Thus progress initiate responsibility in people, simultaneously renewing hope. Hope is an intrinsic character of human life. It is inexhaustible. The progress made with on-going HIV prevention efforts and increasing access to treatment and care, encourage everyone, to strive harder..... and there is evidence to indicate that HIV does give in to concerted intervention,` he noted.
`The 8th ICAAP will give the opportunity to share their experiences and discoveries, and then take back to their own countries, a renewed plan to deal with HIV/AIDS, in an all embracing global version. Like individual waves merging on the horizon,` there is always hope.
Dr. Sheriffdeen said that the theme was the product of a senior journalist, Faizal Samath.
In his closing address and vote of thanks, Bradman Weerakoon said that dealing with AIDS in Asia and Africa will need committed leadership and the building of strong partnerships among all stakeholders involved.
`I trust that the 8th ICAAP will provide a platform and the impetus, to significantly reduce the current gap between promise and fulfilment. The UNGASS Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS will be our common purpose, fusion and change,` he said.
A presentation on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific was made by Marina Mahathir, International Liaison Officer, 8th ICAAP.
A presentation on Role of AIDS Society of Asia and the Pacific. (ASAP) was made by Prof. Myung-Hwal Cho, President (ASAP).