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Urgent action is needed to tackle Asia's HIV/AIDS epidemic. But five common misconceptions are hindering effective responses, say Peter Godwin and colleagues in this article.

First, that HIV/AIDS will affect development in Asia more than it has in sub-Saharan Africa. The authors argue that rather than worry about generalised developmental impacts, Asia should ensure that vulnerable populations have access to effective health and welfare services.

Second, that only one national coordinating authority, one strategic plan and one monitoring and evaluation system are needed. Godwin and colleagues say local ownership of a variety of government programmes is more important.

Third, that nongovernmental organisations have made the most progress in controlling the Asian epidemic. Their reach has in fact been limited, say the authors. They point to large-scale successes of government programmes that work directly with high-risk groups such as sex workers in Cambodia and Thailand.

Fourth, that the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has made large amounts of funding easily available to all. In practice, say Godwin and colleagues, the fund prioritises partnerships that involve civil society and achieve quick, measurable results.

The last myth, say the authors, is that a multi-sectoral response is needed to control the epidemic. This might be appropriate if prevalence rates were high enough to affect labour productivity and social infrastructure but this is not the case anywhere in the Asia-Pacific region, they say.

Link to full article in PLoS Medicine

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