Lao HIV/AIDS center calls for financial support

VIENTIANE, (PNA/Xinhua) — The Lao Center for HIV/AIDS/STI (CHAS) is calling for additional financial support for its work in spreading information about HIV/AIDS to at-risk sections of the public.

“Dr. Phengphet Phetvixay’s report on the funding situation indicates that the Center is taking a rational approach to strategically address funding limitations by re-directing the available resources to high impact, cost effective interventions such as a comprehensive HIV prevention program for key affected populations,” UNAIDS Country Coordinator, Pascal Stenier told Xinhua Friday.

This year, funding for campaigns against the virus has been cut significantly, Head of the center’s Information Education Communication Division, Dr. Phengphet Phetvixay said, according to local media.

The center has subsequently had to cut back on its work among target groups such as secondary school students and factory workers. Instead the center is now focusing its campaign on service women, men who have sex with men, and people who inject drugs.

Financing of the program comes from Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, USAIDS, UNAIDS, UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the UN Population Fund. The Lao government provides 15 percent of the funding.

The funding problems are consistent with a 2012 CHAS report, 2012 Global AIDS Response Country Report for Lao PDR which predicted that “Funds from external sources will be going down in the near future, hence the need to mobilize more resources and increase domestic investment.”

At least 80 percent of funding is used in the treatment of patients such as the purchase of anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs. However funding does not cover the costs of raising awareness of HIV among other at-risk groups such as migrant workers or those who move to Vientiane from rural areas, nor does it cover the cost of foreigners employed in HIV/AIDS campaigns.

Dr. Phetvixay urges everyone at risk to have a blood test for the virus. There are 149 locations in Laos that can give free blood tests including the main hospitals in Vientiane as well as many dispensaries and provincial or district hospitals.

There are also seven centers in Laos that can provide treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS.

According to UNAIDS, at the end of 2010, 34 million people were living with HIV across the globe including 3.4 million children under the age of 15, and 2.7 million new HIV infections were reported in 2010 alone.