DUSHANBE, September 25, Asia-Plus - On September 25, Kyrgyzstan’s parliament (Joghorku Kene?) convened an international parliamentary conference entitled, “The HIV Epidemic in Central Asia and Eastern Europe: Legislative Measures to Combat the Spread of HIV and Priorities for Regional Cooperation” in Bishkek.  The Central Asia AIDS Control Project and Transatlantic Partners Against AIDS (TPAA) are providing support for this initiative.  

A source in the World Bank Dushanbe Office, the idea for the conference came out of the international parliamentary conference on “HIV/AIDS in Eurasia and the Role of the G8” that was held in Moscow on June 8, 2006, in conjunction with Russia’s G8 Presidency. Discussions regarding the creation of the Eurasian Parliamentarian Working Group on HIV/AIDS ensued; the conference in Bishkek was organized to further develop this dialogue and cooperation between parliamentarians of Central Asia and Eastern Europe.

The conference in Kyrgyzstan aims to attract the attention of parliamentarians from Central Asia to the troubling spread of HIV in the countries across the region, identify legislative priorities for member states in the Central Asia AIDS Control Project, discuss urgent measures that must be taken to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS, including mechanisms to ensure legislative support of the governmental policies that combat the epidemic at national and regional levels, and exchange country-specific experiences in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Representatives of parliaments and health ministries from Central Asia countries, Russia and Ukraine parliaments as well as representatives from leading international agencies and non-commercial organizations are taking part in the conference.

The agenda of the conference also includes presentations by parliamentary delegations and health sector representatives from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.  It is expected that a resolution will be adopted at the conclusion of the conference that outlines concrete steps to fortify and enhance agreements that were reached during the event.  The participants hope that the conference will emphasize strategic need for strengthening of control over spread of HIV in the region and will facilitate inter-sector and inter-governmental cooperation to effectively fight the epidemic.

According to the source, Central Asia has witnessed a dramatic increase in infection rates over the past four years.  Officially reported cases jumped from about 500 in 2000 to over 12,000 in 2004.  Unreported cases are thought to be much larger; the Center for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States estimates that in Central Asia there are some 90,000 people in the sub-region living with HIV/AIDS.