By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service
Dec. 22, 2008 - The Defense Department's HIV/AIDS Prevention Program, or DHAPP, is making progress with partner nations by supporting implementation of HIV prevention, care and treatment programs, educating their militaries and creating awareness of the global epidemic, a senior official working in the program said. "As of June 2008, we are providing assistance in 73 different countries, ... and for many of these countries, prior to support from DHAPP, they had no formal HIV/AIDS programs," Dr. Anne Thomas, director of epidemiology and surveillance at DHAPP, said during a "Dot Mil Docs" radio interview on BlogTalkRadio.com, Dec. 18.
DHAPP is the executive agent for Defense Department HIV/AIDS programs.
From its headquarters in San Diego, DHAPP engages in international military cooperation of HIV/AIDS prevention, education, care and treatment and supports HIV/AIDS strategic information, human capacity development and program and policy development in host militaries and civilian communities.
Thomas noted that the United Nations estimated that there were 2.5 million new HIV infections in 2007. "Millions have died already," she said. "The rate of new infections is still outpacing our ability to treat people."
Thomas said 54 nongovernmental organizations and universities also are working in 32 of the 73 countries where DHAPP is offering assistance. Using military-to-military training in many of these countries provides key mentorship, she added, and is crucial to training foreign militaries about HIV prevention, care and treatment.
"We are using the mil-to-mil collaboration to really engage these militaries," she said. "Many of our partner militaries are in countries that have HIV epidemics that may be 15, 17 and 20 [percent] -- sometimes as high as 25 percent -- of the general population that are infected with HIV. If you are trying to keep a force healthy and fit and ready to respond to the needs of the country, this is a huge problem."
One of the countries where DHAPP provides assistance and HIV prevention training is South Africa, which has one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the world, estimated in 2006 at 18.8 percent, with about 5.5 million people living with HIV/AIDS, more than 250,000 of them children, according to DHAPP statistics.
(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg works in the New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)