The Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved US$20 million in grants and loans to help Laos and Vietnam prevent the spread of HIV infections in 23 border provinces.
The funds, announced Wednesday, are focused on areas where the risks of HIV are growing due to increased population movement and commercial activities along economic corridors.
The project will help the two countries strengthen national HIV planning and management, upgrade the knowledge and skills of health workers providing HIV-related services to remote communities, and scale-up behavioral change campaigns on HIV risks amongst at-risk groups, including those in border districts.
The project is expected to be implemented through 2017 at a cost of $21.9 million, with the governments of Laos and Vietnam contributing more than $500,000 and $1.3 million, respectively.
"As people and products move more freely across borders, so do communicable diseases, such as HIV," said Emiko Masaki, Social Sector Economist at ADB's Southeast Asia Department.
"This project will help in strengthening the HIV response systems of Vietnam and Laos to protect their most vulnerable populations with information, skills, supplies and access to quality helotage services."
Border regions have some of the poorest and most isolated populations, with limited access to health services and limited knowledge of HIV risks. New cross border roads, and the mushrooming of hotels, casinos and other businesses in border areas, have increased the threat of HIV infection.
Adult HIV infection rates in Vietnam and Laos are modest at an estimated 0.4 and 0.2 percent of the respective populations, but the disease has spread to all districts in Vietnam and is rising in border zones. Meanwhile, being surrounded by countries with higher HIV prevalence has created a high-risk environment for Laos.