On October 31, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) decided to provide $20 million in grants and loans to support Lao and Vietnam in addressing the spread of HIV infections in 23 border provinces where risks are growing due to increased population movement and commercial activities along economic corridors.
Border regions have some of the poorest and most isolated populations, with limited access to health services and limited knowledge of HIV risks. New cross border roads, and the mushrooming of hotels, casinos and other businesses in border areas, have increased the threat of HIV infection.
Adult HIV infection rates in Vietnam and Lao are modest at an estimated 0.4 percent and 0.2 percent of the respective populations, but the disease has spread to all districts in Vietnam and is rising in border zones. Meanwhile, being surrounded by countries with higher HIV prevalence has created a high-risk environment for Lao.
Many previous efforts to combat the spread of HIV have been targeted at key populations at higher risk in major urban areas, but resource constraints have limited interventions in more isolated areas.
The project will help the two countries strengthen national HIV planning and management, upgrade the knowledge and skills of health workers providing HIV-related services to remote communities, and scale-up behavioral change campaigns on HIV risks amongst at-risk groups, including those in border districts.
The latest investment builds on past ADB HIV/AIDS-related projects in the Greater Mekong Sub-region dating back to 1997.
A technical assistance grant of $1 million from the Cooperation Fund for Fighting HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, financed by the Government of Sweden, to be administered by ADB, will strengthen HIV response at the regional level through knowledge and information sharing and joint pilot activities for HIV services in border areas, amongst state agencies, the private sector, and nongovernment organizations.
The project is expected to be implemented over five years until December 2017, at a cost of $21.9 million with the Governments of Lao and Vietnam contributing more than $0.5 million and $1.3 million, respectively.