HIV/AIDS Strategic Framework for WHO South-East Asia Region 2002-2006

New Delhi, November 2002

Reference Number: SEA-AIDS-135


More than 6 million persons are living with HIV/AIDS in the South-East Asia Region (SEAR) of WHO, making it the second most HIV-affected region in the world after Sub-Saharan Africa. The HIV pandemic is spreading at an alarming pace in the Region, which is home to one-fourth of the world’s population. Unless timely action is taken to fight the pandemic, it can produce grave social and economic consequences in the Region. Hence, there is an urgent need to combat the disease with effective prevention and care programmes in the countries. These programmes will require a substantial amount of resources.

In spite of the efforts under way, there are still many challenges. They include, among others, implementation of successful prevention interventions, increasing awareness of HIV/AIDS in the community, overcoming some of the biggest obstacles to an effective response such as denial, blame, complacency and stigma, and providing voluntary counselling and testing services, as well as care and support for those already affected. The South-East Asia Region is home to significant levels of high-risk behaviours, including multiple sex partners and injecting drug use, which cannot be effectively addressed if they are not acknowledged.

For those who are aware and motivated to seek STI and other health services, including HIV testing and counselling, they are faced with poorly developed primary health care infrastructures in many areas of the Region, and vast segments of the population do not have access to quality health services. As increasing numbers of people living with HIV develop opportunistic infections, health systems will be further strained.

Other infrastructure constraints include weak information systems across the Region. HIV/AIDS surveillance activities, in particular, are yet to expand to provide accurate estimates of the extent of the infection in different geographical areas, the extent of co-infection with tuberculosis, and the prevalence of STIs. There is also a dearth of data on behavioural patterns and on the impact of information, education and communication (IEC) activities.

Finally, political commitment is reflected in formulating legislation and policies with respect to HIV testing, confidentiality, anti-discriminatory practices, condom distribution, partnerships with NGOs and other sectors, dissemination of information through public media, and generally creating supportive or “enabling” environments for behavioural change. Resource allocation and training of personnel are highly inadequate and need to be addressed to sustain effective programmes.

Therefore, the WHO South-East Asia Regional AIDS strategy will try to address these problems concentrating on the following areas of work: prevention of HIV infection, care of persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA), HIV/STI surveillance and research, and advocacy and programme management. Currently, a work plan with an adequate budget for the biennium 2002-2003 has been prepared, but, unfortunately, consistent financial resources are not yet available and the relative source of funding has yet to be identified. In order to provide support to Member Countries, a budget of US$ 4 414 000 is required for the biennium, but there is a resource gap of US$ 2 310 000.