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May 17, 2012

IBM Working to Make HIV Disappear From Bangkok

By Deborah Hirsch, TMCnet Contributor

IBM (News - Alert) announced today it is collaborating with the Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Center (TRCARC) to strengthen HIV prevention efforts to make Bangkok the world's first city to achieve "Zero New HIV Infections" by 2015, according to an IBM press release.

IBM will donate business analytics software and technology expertise to aid the center in designing more effective intervention strategies to help end the spread of HIV/AIDS.

IBM also announced this week that it is working with the government of Ghana to bring access to healthcare to more people. 

In February, Asia-Pacific governments spent three days in Bangkok endorsing a road map based on greater regional cooperation to fast-track progress towards meeting global commitments on preventing HIV/AIDS.

The action plan called for increased collaboration between government ministries, including health, justice, public security, police and drug control in partnership with civilians and key affected populations, including “people who buy and sell sex, men who have sex with men, transgender populations and people who use drugs,” according to United Nations ESCAP.

In 2009, it was estimated that a little over a half million people were living with HIV in Thailand, but that was down from 640,000 in 2001, according to Evidence to Action, an organization sponsored by UNAIDS, Unicef and the World Health Organization. The news is slightly better for children ages 0 to 14; their rates of HIV dropped from 30,000 to 10,000. Still, that’s 10,000 too many.

Heterosexual transmission now accounts for the vast majority of new infections in Thailand, but that has changed completely since the first wave of HIV cases were reported, according to Evidence to Action. At that time, 80 percent of female sex workers were infected. But now, one-third of wives are infected in most cases by their husbands or sex partners, making it all too clear that Bangkok, and all of Thailand, could truly benefit from intervention and prevention.

The IBM initiative is in response to "Getting to Zero," a global campaign initiated by UNAIDS, to stop new HIV infections, discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS, and HIV/AIDS-related deaths by 2015, according to the press release. The campaign was endorsed by the Thai government in February 2011.

Using IBM business analytics software, TRCARC can get all types of related information and share it with its alliance agencies, such as the Department of Disease Control and Ministry of Public Health, to strengthen this HIV prevention effort, the press release reports.

"HIV infection is one of the most serious public health threats Thailand is facing,” said Professor Emeritus Praphan Phanuphak, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Center, in the press release. “It is estimated that there are 16,000 new HIV infection cases per year. Unfortunately, only 40 percent of the HIV-infected population knows they are living with the HIV or AIDS and gets access to anti-retroviral treatment services. This situation results in the continuing spread of the life-threatening virus, and new infections are rising every year."

IBM helped to develop a database of people with high risk of HIV infection and used its business analytics capabilities to enable “researchers to make better decisions on more proactive and preventive measures against transmission of HIV.”

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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