New HIV infections in Thailand have dropped 50 per cent in six years – the biggest decline in Asia and the Pacific, according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
And UNAIDS has applauded Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health for its bold new national AIDS strategy, which provides a roadmap for ending the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat in Thailand by 2030.
Admiral Narong Pipatanasai, Deputy Prime Minister and Chair of the National AIDS Committee, launched the 2017-2030 National AIDS Strategy at the Government Complex in Bangkok on Wednesday.
The 13-year plan would ensure an effective, cost-efficient and high-impact HIV response, he said.
A recent UNAIDS report has found that annual new HIV infections have dropped 50 per cent in Thailand between 2010-2016, the steepest decline for any country in Asia and the Pacific.
“Thailand stands out in the Asia-Pacific region for its achievements in overcoming AIDS,” said Patchara Benjarattanaporn, UNAIDS country director for Thailand. “In just one generation the country has gone from having the fastest growing epidemic in Asia to the slowest.
“This didn’t just happen. It was because of the commitment, resources and innovation which are a hallmark of Thailand’s efforts on HIV.”
The new strategy commits to a fast-track phase, where an all-out effort is made to reach the global “90-90-90” treatment targets by 2020. This refers to a situation where 90 per cent of people living with HIV know their HIV status, 90 per cent of people who know their HIV-positive status are accessing treatment, and 90 per cent of people on treatment have viral suppression. Thailand has already achieved the first 90 and the other two goals are within reach.
The country’s epidemic is concentrated among key populations, including men who have sex with men, transgender people, people who inject drugs and sex workers.
A big challenge to the HIV response is ensuring that key populations who often face stigma and discrimination get access to the services they need. With the new plan, the government has committed to supporting a combination of prevention programmes for key populations and working in partnership with community-led organisations to reach people most at risk in the locations where they live and work.
The strategy includes tailored programmes for specific populations in specific locations. It also includes plans to increase the integration of HIV health services with those for Hepatitis C, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases.
Thailand is one of a handful of countries in Asia to almost completely self-fund its HIV response, with nearly 90 per cent of total AIDS spending from domestic public sources.
Recently, the government reported an increase in investment in combination HIV prevention programmes for key populations to Bt200 million annually. Under the new strategy this investment is expected to increase.