VIENTIANE, Oct. 29 (Xinhua) -- Members of the Lao National Assembly committed to the UN Declaration on reaching zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths in the country during a national round-table discussion on HIV/AIDS held in Laos' southern province of Champassak on Monday.
The event was hosted jointly by the National Assembly, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
The incidence of HIV/AIDS in Laos is presently rising, but less prevalent than in surrounding countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar. The overall population living with HIV/AIDS in Laos is expected to be around nine thousand at the moment, with one thousand new cases last year. The total population of Laos is around 6.4 million.
With the support of the government, extensive prevention, testing, monitoring, and treatment campaigns have been launched over the last decade. These have targeted the most at-risk groups for HIV/AIDS in Laos: sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM), and injecting drug users.
Monday's round-table discussion aimed to bring together the Lao National Assembly, civil society organizations and development stakeholders to discuss and disseminate the HIV/AIDS Declaration adopted in a High Level Meeting held in New York in 2011. In the Declaration, UN Member States committed to a number of strategies to move towards universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.
"As opinion-leaders and decision-makers, the parliamentarians have decided to ensure that government commitment to the New Political Declaration on HIV is honoured and will advocate for the Getting to Zero Strategy in Lao PDR and promote respect among their constituents for people living with HIV, encourage informed debate on issues related to HIV, based on scientific evidence and supportive cultural values not popular myths, prejudicial beliefs or harmful cultural practices," said President of the Social and Cultural Affairs Committee of the National Assembly Professor Phonethep Pholsena at the discussion.
The round table discussion was the first activity to mark World Aids Day 2012, commemorated every year on Dec. 1 to raise awareness about the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection.