A total of four million dollars has been committed by the International Federation and the OPEC Fund for International Development in what is being seen as the start of a new partnership in combatting HIV/AIDS in Asia Pacific.
The region has one of the highest increases in HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the world with more than one million people becoming infected in 2001. Two Asian countries - China and India - are set to overtake South Africa as the country with the highest number of people living with HIV/AIDS.
At a signing ceremony at the International Federation headquarters in Geneva, the Director General of the OPEC Fund, Dr. Y. Seyyid Abdulai, emphasised the need to work in partnership in containing the pandemic which he said was destroying gains made in education, health and infrastructural development.
"We can't work alone. We need to work with the best institutions," he told International Federation Secretary General, Didier Cherpitel, and a gathering of ambassadors from OPEC and Asian countries as well as representatives from the two organisations.
The membership of the International Federation, with its network of 97 million volunteers worldwide of which 63 million are in the Asia Pacific region, he said, would spread the message that will prevent people becoming infected by the virus. "This is only the beginning," he added.
The theme of a sustainable partnership with sustainable progress against the disease was echoed by Didier Cherpitel. "The only way to build up sustainable programmes against HIV/AIDS is through communities," he said. The network of Red Cross Red Crescent community-based volunteers are that link with the communities.
The International Federation's agreement with the OPEC Fund is the latest in a series of partnerships with organisations and corporations against HIV/AIDS, including Nestlé in Africa.
The money from this agreement will be used to support programmes in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea and 11 Pacific countries. Programmes will focus on prevention, care and support and challenging stigma and discrimation against people living with HIV/AIDS.
Speaking to the guests gathered at the ceremony today, Dr. Alvaro Bermejo, the International Federation's head of health and care department, recounted the story of Patinyha, an HIV positive Thai woman whose life was turned around after joining a Thai Red Cross supported club for others in a similar situation. Finding a safe haven where she met people who understood her enabled Patinyha to live with the virus and motivated her to join the Red Cross response to HIV/AIDS full-time as a volunteer. She and her husband work among communities to help prevent the spread of the disease and to fight stigma and discrimination and are now providing support across the border in Laos. It is work at this grassroot level that the joint Federation-OPEC Fund projects will support and which will make a difference in the long campaign against the pandemic.
International Federation: Reducing the impact of HIV/AIDS
Asia and the Pacific: appeals updates and reports
The OPEC Fund for International Development