Tue, Jul 20, 2004 - Page 2 News List

AIDS group faces uphill battle as infections rise

By Caroline Hong  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Taiwan AIDS Foundation announced its arrival in the non-governmental organization (NGO) community yesterday, saying that it hopes to expand the resources necessary to combat HIV/AIDS within the country.

"Many HIV/AIDS civic groups deal with the situation on too small a scale, either because they focus only on certain aspects of the disease, or because their funding is limited," AIDS Foundation chairman Twu Shing-jer (涂醒哲) said. "We hope to establish a level playing field between the government, media, business and public sectors to increase cooperation on the fight against HIV/AIDS in Taiwan."

As an HIV/AIDS expert and former government official, Twu, who was head of the Department of Health from 2002 to last year, is in a unique position to understand the HIV/AIDS situation in this country.

"Taiwan's health policy towards HIV/AIDS victims is pretty progressive. The Department of Health gives full medical treatment to those confirmed to have the disease. However, current policy was formulated without hearing the voices of the patients and the public," Twu said.

He also said that when the nation's HIV/AIDS policies were developed in 1990, no AIDS-related NGOs were in existence to support the rights of infected individuals and that there were too few HIV/AIDS patients to have their voices heard on the matter. As a result, the government relied on the advice of medical experts with no experience in treatment, which led to policy lapses. The foundation will seek to change that situation, he said.

"We hope to gather enough financial backing to bring together the voices of all who are infected by the disease to discuss prevention and treatment issues," Twu said.

The foundation has three goals. It aims to spread the message of safe sex, work on disease prevention and increase international cooperation between HIV/AIDS activists, academics and policymakers. With the symbolic backing of its honorary chairperson, first lady Wu Shu-chen (吳淑珍), Twu hopes that the foundation will help slow the rise in HIV/AIDS.

The disease is rising at an average rate of 15 percent a year here, Twu said.

The foundation is still in its planning stages, Twu said, but it should be up and running by the end of the year. The foundation's Web site (www.taiwanaids.org.tw) will also be online soon.

To learn more about the foundation, call (02) 2312-3456, ext. 6575. Donations can be wired to the Taiwan AIDS Foundation Planning Department at the Taiwan Cooperative Bank, account number 1346-717-033555.

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