By Premier Su Tseng-chang
Saturday, 9th of September, 2006
Distinguished international guests, Minister Hou, Director Kuo, ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the Executive Yuan, I would like to welcome all of you to the 8th Taipei International Conference on HIV/AIDS. I would especially like to pay tributes to many international and domestic experts who are with us today, for their long-term devotion to the cause of AIDS prevention and control.
This year’s conference will focus on harm reduction practices as an effective way to halt HIV transmission among injecting drug users, and as many countries’ experiences have demonstrated, harm reduction practices also double as an effective means to reduce crime rates. I have always regarded the maintenance of public order and the reduction of crimes as one of the most important duties of the government, and I would therefore like to declare my full support and commitment for a national harm reduction program.
The government of Taiwan understands that AIDS control requires cross-sectoral collaboration, so we have been coordinating our national efforts through a cross-departmental AIDS Control Committee since 2001. Although this committee has achieved much success in conducting AIDS prevention and education campaigns, its achievements have been shadowed by a sharp increase in HIV cases among IDUs over the past three years. Injecting drug use not only provides a route for rapid HIV transmission through needle-sharing, it is also damaging to individual health and to the common good of our nation. In order to minimize the damage caused by needle-sharing among IDUs, Taiwan has incorporated harm reduction practices into our anti-drug and AIDS control policies.
In fact, the Executive Yuan has recently secured a NT$ 80 million budget for the national promotion and implementation of harm reduction practices over the next five years, which we hope will serve to effectively control the AIDS epidemic in Taiwan. In addition, the government has declared a three-year war on drugs from 2005 to 2008. As this war begins, our harm reduction program will be complemented by measures to block drug supplies and to address the root causes of drug use. We hope that our anti-drug efforts will serve to minimize the impact of substance abuse on people’s health, on social order and on the national economy.
Even though harm reduction is a relatively new policy in Taiwan, it has been adopted for many years in western countries like Australia, Britain and the United States. As Taiwan is in the early stages of running a national harm reduction program, we are grateful to have so many experts under one roof this weekend to share their valuable experience and knowledge with us. We are also excited to have the opportunity to share with this international audience some of our preliminary achievements in implementing harm reduction practices. Last but not least, I wish this conference a great success and good health to all participants!