Cabinet officials failed to reach a consensus with private assisted care facilities on how to care for the surging number of people with HIV/AIDS during a legislative hearing yesterday.
Hosted by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators Wang Jung-chang (王榮璋) and Huang Sue-ying (黃淑英), the hearing was meant to bring together policymakers and care providers on the front lines of the war against AIDS in a dialogue on how to care for people with HIV/AIDS.
"As of July 2006, we now have more than 12,000 reported cases of HIV/AIDS in Taiwan, with huge increases in recent years due to a surge in [intravenous] drug use," Wang said, adding that the soaring infection rate needed to be addressed more actively by the public and private sectors.
But Sister Hsieh Chu-ying (謝菊英), executive secretary of the Lour-des Association, a Catholic non-governmental organization (NGO) that cares for people with HIV/AIDS, said that facilities such as Lourdes could only do so much with limited funding.
"Eighty-five percent of our funding comes from donations, with only 15 percent provided by the government," Hsieh said in the hearing, adding that the "Ministry of the Interior has never given us any financial support."
Wang apologized to NGO representatives for "entering [the fight against AIDS] too late" and for "caring too late."
Huang called on the ministries of the interior and justice, as well as the Department of Health, to do more to support NGOs that care for people with HIV/AIDS.
A major sticking point in the dialogue between government officials and NGO representatives was whether major government-funded assisted care facilities designated for children, women, the elderly, or the disabled could also take in people with HIV/AIDS.
According to Sister Hsieh, people with HIV/AIDS from all walks of life are cared for at NGOs like Lourdes.
Although the patients often fit into the above four categories, they are typically excluded from government-funded facilities based on their disease, she said.
"In the US, AIDS is categorized as a `disability,'" Hsieh said.
Hsieh added that if the same category were applied in Taiwan, care facilities for the disabled could help ease the burden of caring for people with HIV/AIDS.
However, Chuang Neng-chieh (莊能杰), executive director of the Taiwan After-Care Association, an NGO that provides drug rehabilitation and care services nationwide, claimed that NGOs like hers are specialized and lack the resources to care for people with HIV/AIDS, even though more and more people with HIV/AIDS are chronic drug users and contracted the disease through drug use.