Discours à l’occasion de l’ouverture du séminaire de clôture du projet Napneung à l’université Mae Fah Luang, province de Chiang Rai - le 17 décembre 2018
Associate Professor Vanchai Sirichana, President of Mae Fah Luang University,
Dear representatives of organizations supporting people living with HIV,
Dr. Wasna Sirirungsi, former Dean of the Faculty of Associated Medical Sciences, Chiang Mai University,
Dr. Gonzague Jourdain, director of the IRD-PHPT research unit 174,
Mr. Taoufik Bakkali, UNAIDS Representative in Thailand,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like, first of all, to thank warmly the President of the Mae Fah Luang University for hosting today’s workshop ; this is a university with which the Embassy of France has been having a strong collaboration for many years.
It is a great pleasure for me to be with you today. In fact I am even extremely proud to be part of this important moment in the Napneung project, a workshop that will contribute to the review of both your activities and the situation regarding access to HIV testing in Thailand.
The commitment of France in the response to the HIV epidemic is both strong and not recent. France has been, like Thailand, highly affected by the epidemic and very early on, a huge mobilization of French scientists allowed scientific breakthroughs, such as the discovery of HIV at the Pasteur Institute in Paris.
By the end of the 90’s France laid the ground towards an equitable and affordable access to life-saving treatment. In 1999, French president Jacques Chirac, in Abidjan, called for a reinforcement of the response to the HIV crisis by the international community, through the scaling-up of access to HIV treatment in resource-limited countries. And Thailand was among the first nations in South-East Asia to implement an ambitious program, so that patients would have access to the needed therapy.
Since early 2002, the efforts of the Government of Thailand have been complemented by a huge support from the Global Fund against HIV, TB and malaria. France is proudly the second most important donor to the Global Fund, because we believe that HIV is a global threat and that it should be tackled by global and coordinated efforts. Recently again, France renewed its commitment to the Global Fund : the next replenishment conference, to secure the necessary funding after 2020, will take place in France, in October 2019, and be chaired by the French President, Emmanuel Macron.
So, yes, drawing on the precious guidelines of the WHO and of Unaids, Thailand has made a lot of progress towards the prevention of new HIV infections and access to treatment.
But it’s a bit more than just that. Thailand is considered as a “champion” in the region and further, worldwide. Two years ago, the WHO acknowledged the elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV in Thailand.
If I find it important to mention it, it is because France was involved in research on this issue, with the French Institute IRD and the University of Chiang Maï. In Thailand, like in many countries, appropriate public health measures are drawn from excellent scientific research.
According to Unaids, the very vast majority of those living with HIV in this country are aware of their HIV status. And more than 320 000 individuals have access to antiretroviral treatments. But with new infections occurring every day and a certain number of people who still ignore that they are infected, it is still impossible to envision the end of the epidemic.
This is the reason why the French 5% Initiative, conducted by Expertise France, decided to support the Napneung project ; the challenge is both simple and complex : how can we find a way to convince each person at risk of HIV infection to seek HIV testing, in order to be referred to the appropriate treatment service without delay, in case of a positive result ?
Most of these project outcomes will be presented and discussed today. Recently, an external evaluation was conducted. Strengths and weaknesses were reviewed and discussed with the Napneung’s team and with the partners. This evaluation concludes that the project was not only relevant to reaching out to people who had never had an HIV test before, but also helped people with HIV and aware of their HIV status to search for treatment and linkage to care services.
Interestingly, the new method implemented through the Napneung project shows that there is a need for more anonymous and faster testing services and also for integrated services where people can be tested for viral hepatitis and syphilis.
Now, what about tomorrow ? Would the status quo allow us to see the end of the epidemic of HIV in Thailand ? In the region ? Probably not !
There is a consensus around a need for a renewed dynamism.
We have extremely efficient tools, like the antiretroviral treatment. They should be prescribed to each individual living with HIV ; and they can also be precious in terms of preventing new infections. You know this very well. People living with HIV and an efficient treatment do not pass the virus anymore. And individuals who are unaware of their HIV infection may continue to spread HIV, in particular those in the early phase of the HIV infection.
This is why the University of Chiang Maï, the Faculty of Associated Medical Sciences, together with the IRD, have brought forward a proposal on the opportunity of new strategies to increase and encourage regular testing and appropriate prevention for those at high risk of HIV infection.
It is with great pleasure that I am officially informing you today that this proposal has recently been accepted by Expertise France ; once again, the 5% Initiative will support Thailand in its efforts to find innovative ways to tackle the epidemic. This support amounts to 1,25 million of € and is planned to last three years.
With this great news, I want to wish you all a fruitful workshop. You know that you can count on us ; you can count on the support of the Embassy of France in Thailand, in particular through the efforts of our regional counsellor on health issues, Eric Fleutelot, to whom I want to pay tribute. I would like, once again, to warmly congratulate you for your great work and your meaningful commitment. And thank you very much for your attention.