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The AIDS epidemic is one of the premier development challenges of the new millennium, threatening to undermine hard-won development gains in many countries.
The AIDS Public Policy Training Project, based at the Kennedy School’s Center for Business and Government’s Asia Programs, has been stepping up its efforts to train government officials in Asia to aggressively confront the HIV/AIDS epidemic. With a recent senior level training course on AIDS for Chinese provincial government officials, and with the first training in Vietnam scheduled for January 2006, the AIDS Public Policy Training Project is taking its expertise where it is needed most.
“Despite global learning over the last twenty years about what sorts of program interventions work best, the AIDS epidemic continues to gain momentum in a number of new countries where early intervention could have prevented its spread and where little treatment or care for those affected exists,” said project director Joan Kaufman, after conducting the first training on HIV/AIDS for senior officials in China.
Participants in the April 2005 training in China included the Provincial Deputy Governor and the Provincial Party Secretary as well as the governors of all 16 prefectures. Yunnan Province, China, borders the Golden Triangle of southeast Asia and is one of China’s hardest hit provinces for AIDS and the place where China’s AIDS epidemic began in the late 1980’s. The epidemic has now begun to spread from heroin users to the general population and is rapidly shifting from mostly men to greater numbers of women.
The China AIDS Public Policy Training Program, launched in 2004, is a joint initiative between Tsinghua University's School of Public Policy and Management and Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. Chinese AIDS experts serve as co-faculty for the twice yearly training of 50-60 senior policy makers from the national and provincial levels.
The Vietnam program will operate similarly but will build the capacity of faculty at the Ho Chi Minh National Political Academy to institutionalize the course within Vietnam’s national and provincial training schools. Planning is underway for a detailed evaluation of the effectiveness of a collaborative approach to AIDS response in China and Vietnam.
Kaufman thinks there are signs that these training programs could help prevent some of the extreme effects of the epidemic that have been seen in other parts of the world. “There has been a huge increase in political will and funding for the AIDS response in both China and Vietnam in recent years. We are hopeful that our training program will provide political leaders in both countries with a greater understanding of the specifics about how to effectively halt this terrible epidemic,” she said.