Government to toughen fight against HIV/AIDS

Government to toughen fight against HIV/AIDS

Ankara, 20 September 2006 (PlusNews) – The Kazakh government is expected to approve a new programme worth over US $50 million to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS in the former Soviet republic.

“This is a [four-year] programme to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country with the overall amount worth 6.7 trillion Kazakh tenge [$53.16 million],” Alexander Kossukhin, national programme officer with the Joint United Nations Programe on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said from the Kazakh commercial capital of Almaty on Wednesday.

“Of this amount, the government will provide 2.8 trillion tenge [some $22 million] and the rest is likely to be funded from external sources, like the Global Fund [to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria], Central Asian projects, and so on,” Kossukhin added.

His comments came two days after health ministry officials held a meeting with international organisations – including the World Health Organization, the World Bank, the US Agency for International Development, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNAIDS and others – aimed at discussing the details of the programme.

The programme aims at keeping the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate among the country’s general population aged between 15 and 49 at not more than 0.5 percent and halving HIV/AIDS-related mortality rates from 50 per 1,000 people living with HIV to 25 per 1,000 patients by 2010, the health ministry said in a statement.

The importance of the programme is that “it defines the level of access to preventive and treatment services, or the whole complex of services to the population with regard to HIV infection,” Kossukhin explained, adding: “It also makes clear how it will be monitored and evaluated.”

The UNAIDS official added that a government decree adopted with regard to the programme would allow the authorities to introduce stronger requirements from various actors involved while implementing the programme along with creating more favourable conditions for non-governmental organisations, which remained weak in the country.

According to UNAIDS, there are currently 5,500 registered cases of people living with HIV/AIDS in Kazakhstan. Based on reported surveillance data there were between 10,500 and 12,000 people living with HIV in mid-2005.

The new programme discussions followed recent reports of dozens of small children infected in a hospital in southern Kazakhstan over the past few months. The health ministry reported that the number of HIV cases among small children reached 55 as of Monday. They had been infected with HIV because of “plain negligence”, the BBC reported, quoting Erbolat Dosayev, the country’s health minister, as saying.

Officials in the region were seeking 17 people, suspected of carrying the HIV virus, who donated blood used at the hospital. Prosecutors are investigating whether to bring criminal charges. “There was plain negligence and there were violations of medical norms,” Dosayev reportedly said.

Tests have been carried out on half of nearly 10,000 children under the age of three, who had been treated at the hospital and were thought to be at risk, he said. The first cases of HIV among the children were reported in the summer. Members of parliament have called for Dosayev and regional healthcare officials to resign.

AT/JL/DS

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[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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