As we are approaching the end of 2012, we have come to a point where controlling the HIV epidemic becomes imperative as we move forward to the accomplishment of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). At the same time, the world witnessed stronger evidences of a controlled HIV epidemic through the following: scaled-up treatment; better access to prevention services; and engagement of communities of key affected population in prevention efforts. In other words, the vision of Getting to the three zeroes, that is Zero New HIV Infections, Zero Discrimination, Zero AIDS Related Deaths, is now becoming a reality. ASEAN’s commitment to realising this vision was strengthened at the 11th AHMM in Phuket, Thailand, while operationalisation is commencing through the ASEAN Cities Getting to Zero initiative in 12 cities within the ASEAN region.
Yet, we observe that reaching the three zeroes will be impossible without true equity among ASEAN communities. Women and children have shown greater vulnerability to the infection caused by inequity in society — whether based on cultural values or lack of economic and political powers.
It is well known that current HIV programmes that reached women have been challenging — whether these will involve the promotion of safe sex; exchange programme for clean syringes and needles for harm reduction; activities for affordable and accessible HIV testing and treatment; or even just to promote a violence-free environment. Consequently, children were also put at risk.
Therefore, it is our strong belief that HIV and AIDS can only be truly controlled with the existence of gender equality, protection of women and children and the fulfillment of child’s right — in particular, the right to health.
It is our common responsibility and that of the government, non-government, private sectors, civil societies, and including key affected populations, to provide early, comprehensive, quality services and affordable HIV testing and anti-retrovirals (ARV); and, prevention services and social support needed by key affected populations.
Let this be the year when ASEAN nations spirited by solidarity and cordiality as a community together with the world takes affirmative actions to ensure that beyond 2015 the world has reached “Zero New HIV Infections, Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS Related Deaths”.