Investigating the impact of AIDS in Asia/Pacific – independent commission on AIDS launched

17 July 2006

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New Delhi, 15 July 2006 – A new body to study the spread and impact of HIV and AIDS in the Asia Pacific region was launched on Saturday (15 July) in New Delhi.

The independent Commission on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, chaired by the Chief Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister of India, Dr Chakravarthy Rangarajan, consists of 10 leading economists, scientists, civil society representatives and policy-makers from across the region. Over a period of 18 months, the Commission will conduct an objective analysis of the impact and developmental consequences of the AIDS epidemic in the region, and what this might mean to the socio-economic environment in the medium and long term. The Commission’s findings will be summarized in a report with recommendations for a set of measures designed to mobilize leaders to adequately respond to the epidemic in the region.

At the end of 2005, there were an estimated 8.3 million persons living with HIV in Asia and the Pacific and the numbers are growing rapidly. Over half a million people died of AIDS last year alone “Faced with these startling figures and such a grim scenario, development experts need to describe in greater detail the kind of impact AIDS will have on societies and the development of countries in the region. To date, this sort of analysis has been inadequate for Asia and the Pacific and data is still limited” said Dr Rangarajan during the launch.  “The goal of this Commission and its eminent thinkers is to generate adequate information to show to leaders and governments in the region the urgent necessity to invest in AIDS if they are to maintain their achievements in development,” added Dr Rangarajan.

The Joint United Nations Programme of AIDS (UNAIDS) will provide the commission with logistical support in its initial months and has contributed the funding towards the work of the Commission on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific. Mr JVR Prasada Rao, Director, UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Asia and the pacific in Bangkok, sits as the Secretary to the Commission.

“Such an important analysis of the impact of HIV and AIDS should be conducted through a group of experts who can make an objective assessment of the situation in the region, and bring out a report which can carry credibility with national governments and civil society alike,” Mr Rao said.

“We are confident this Commission will make a real difference and move the agenda forward for the Aisa Pacific region response to HIV and AIDS.”

The commission's expected work includes studying the impact of AIDS on human resources, labour productivity, poverty reduction, social stability and household savings.

It will also examine the spread of the virus in coming years, and how it could be reduced by raising national and international efforts.

A series of sub-regional consultations in different venues in South Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific will be held, with inputs coming from local academics, government officials, civil society, multilateral organizations and experts in the field.

The Commission is expected to release a final Report at the end of 2007.

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