amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

amfAR Briefing and Film Screening Highlight AIDS in Asia

July 21, 2008—amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, highlighted the rapidly growing Asian HIV/AIDS epidemic at a film screening and panel discussion on July 16 at the U.S. Capitol Rayburn House Office Building.

The panel discussion is available via webcast courtesy of Kaisernetwork.org by clicking here. 

"Asia is the critical new frontier in the HIV/AIDS epidemic," said Dr. Susan J. Blumenthal, amfAR’s senior medical and policy advisor, who moderated the program. "It’s crucial that we raise awareness, develop and support treatment services, and shatter the debilitating stigma associated with HIV across Asia."

The event featured Dr. Shenghan Lai, professor, Bloomberg School of Public Health, John Hopkins University; Thomas Lennon, producer of the Academy Award-winning documentary Blood on the Yingzhou District and the new film Tongzhi in Love; Dr. Caroline Ryan, director of program services, Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, PEPFAR; and Kevin Robert Frost, amfAR CEO and founder of its TREAT Asia program.

Excerpts from the Academy Award-winning documentary Blood of the Yingzhou District and from the new film Tongzhi in Love were shown, followed by a panel discussion.

Asia is confronting a complex and devastating HIV/AIDS epidemic. Although HIV did not hit Asian countries until the late 1980s, by the late 1990s the epidemic was well established across the region. UNAIDS reported that in 2007, approximately 446,000 Asians/Pacific Islanders were newly infected with HIV, bringing the total number of people living with HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific to 4.9 million. In the same year, more than 300,000 men, women, and children died from AIDS-related illnesses in this region.

"With a regional population that is roughly 60 percent of the world’s total, even low prevalence translates into huge numbers of people infected," Frost said. "In the late 1990s, when little attention was being paid to the looming HIV/AIDS crisis in Asia, amfAR recognized the need for a cooperative approach to expanding capacity for the broader introduction of HIV/AIDS therapeutics in Asia and the Pacific. amfAR’s response was to create an initiative it named Therapeutics Research, Education, and AIDS Training in Asia – TREAT Asia."

TREAT Asia is a network of clinics, hospitals, and research institutions working with civil society to ensure the safe and effective delivery of HIV/AIDS treatments throughout Asia and the Pacific. Facilitated by amfAR, TREAT Asia seeks to strengthen HIV/AIDS care, treatment, and management skills among healthcare professionals through education and training programs developed by experts in the region.

Along with co-founder Ruby Yang, Thomas Lennon created the Chang Ai Media Project, which has reached some 500 million viewers in China with AIDS awareness messages, including the first safe-sex/condom campaign on Chinese television. Their awareness campaigns have featured Yao Ming, Jackie Chan, and other Asian stars. Blood of Yingzhou District was a searing portrait of AIDS orphans in the remote villages of Anhui Province. Tongzhi in Love profiles three young men navigating the dilemmas of being gay in modern China.