UN: Indonesia’s New President Must Fill Funding Gap in HIV Fight

Indonesia, one of only three countries in the Asia-Pacific region that is seeing a trend of increased HIV infections, must plug a $30 million funding gap in its fight against HIV, a U.N. health official said on Wednesday.

President-elect Joko Widodo, who won a July election, should build on the policies implemented by the outgoing administration, Cho Kah Sin, Indonesia country director for the United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS, told Reuters.

Indonesia’s five-year strategic plan to combat HIV/AIDS ends this year and domestic funding of the plan is at about 40 percent, much lower than the targeted 70 percent, Cho said.

While the domestic budget for tackling HIV/AIDS has increased from $27 million in 2010 to $37 million this year, the current funding gap is estimated at about $30 million, and it is expected to increase to about $175 million by 2020.

“Indonesia is a middle income country [and] is going to have a challenge trying to convince international donors to continue to invest in development assistance for social and health projects,” said Cho.

“Eventually it will have to provide its own funding for priorities like health,” he added. “It is very important for the national government to continue to increase the proportion of funding for HIV from domestic resources.”

The United Nations, in a report released every two years on the world HIV and AIDS epidemic, said last month new infection rates in Indonesia were a “cause for concern.”

About 0.43 percent of the adult population, or about 640,000 people, are infected with HIV in Indonesia.

Indonesia, Pakistan and the Philippines were the only three countries in the Asia-Pacific region with a trend of increased HIV infections, the United Nations said.

Cho said he was optimistic about the fight in Indonesia.

Since 2012, the world’s fourth most populous country has massively increased access to HIV testing and now offers early antiretroviral treatment.

“It’s important that the new administration stay on course, continue to invest in early testing and early treatment, and build on the foundation that the minister has already put in place,” Cho said, referring to Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi, who introduced a more effective response to HIV/AIDS when she was appointed in 2012.

“If this is continued, we have no doubt that this is going to be able to reverse the epidemic,” Cho continued.

Advisers to Widodo could not be reached for comment.

One reason for the rise in HIV rates in Indonesia was that infections only began to start picking up in the mid-1990s, Cho said, later than in many other countries.

Also, as testing has increased and become more accepted, more people are willing to get tested and therefore know their HIV status, he said.

“Of course we don’t expect these to turn the epidemic around overnight – it will take time to show but we’re on the right track. She has put the foundations in place,” Cho said referring to Mboi’s work.

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