Thailand has been praised as a rare success story in the war against AIDs. But for Michael Hahn, UNAID’s coordinator in Thailand, it’s an old story: the new one is the stagnant progress with inadequate prevention funding.
Thailand has not made much progress in containing AIDS in the past four to five years when the number of new infections stayed unchanged as a result of decreasing funds in prevention, Michael Hahn told Xinhua in a recent interview.
“The money Thai authorities spend in AIDS prevention went down and down and down,” he said. Thailand has 500,000 people with HIV, and the number is increasing by 25 each day, or about 10,000 every year.
Newly infected people need treatment while the overall spending on AIDS remains the same. “So more and more money goes to treatment, less and less to prevention, fueling the vicious circle, ” he added. On average, treatment for one person with HIV costs 500 U.S. dollars per year.
Hahn said only 15 percent of the current 7.7 billion baht government funds against AIDS had been spent on prevention, but the proper ratio should be 30 percent. “Clearly funds spent on prevention is not enough in Thailand.”
Hahn also urged more prevention efforts on the most vulnerable and marginalized male who have sex with male (MSM), injecting drug users and sex workers, who, along with their partners, account for 94 percent of the new infections in Thailand.
The challenge is to invest the limited resources on the three most needy groups, he said. “We need to spend money to protect MSM, prostitutes and drug users because this will eventually help us to get the epidemic under control.”
At the end of 2010, an estimated 34 million people were living with HIV worldwide, up 17 percent from 2001. About 2.7 million new HIV infections were reported in 2010, including 390,000 children, according to statistics from UNAIDS, the UN Programme on HIV/AIDS.