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Secretary Sebelius Visits Southeast Asia: Global Health Security, HIV/AIDS and Non-Communicable Diseases Take Center Stage

The global burden of disease is shifting significantly toward non-communicable diseases which now account for almost 65 percent of deaths worldwide.  The trend is being ignited by the unprecedented growth in GDP in many low- and middle-income countries, creating a situation where deaths from diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular ailments will increase by 20 percent in Southeast Asia by 2020.  Additionally, health security threats posed by emerging infectious diseases such as H7N9 influenza and the MERS-Coronavirus will continue to pose challenges to public health systems globally.  The United States Department of Health and Human Services is collaborating closely with countries in the region to improve surveillance and information systems to help prevent and treat non-communicable diseases and to detect and manage emerging threats.  

During her recent trip to Vietnam and Thailand, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius witnessed first-hand the changing global health landscape and highlighted the technical engagement and diplomacy work at the core of HHS’ work abroad.

In Vietnam, Secretary Sebelius signed a health agreement with the Vietnamese Health Minister reflecting the importance of our bilateral partnership, and was honored to meet with the Prime Minister. Her conversations and site visits focused on issues of global health security, HIV/AIDS, and the treatment and care of marginalized populations.  Her speech at Hanoi Medical University centered on US-Vietnam collaboration on global health security, and her visit to one of the largest poultry markets in Hanoi underscored the attention that must be paid to the animal-human interface in addressing pandemic threats such as H7N9 influenza in neighboring China.

Secretary Sebelius also visited health care facilities in Ho Chi Minh City, and saw first-hand the training and technical assistance that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration and others are providing in substance abuse treatment as an evidence-based HIV prevention intervention. As a result of these efforts, more than 10,000 injecting drug users are on Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT) free of charge.

In Thailand, Secretary Sebelius focused on non-communicable diseases, refugee health, cross-border health concerns, and prevention of HIV/AIDS.  Thailand and the U.S. are celebrating 180 years of collaboration, which includes the establishment of a Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) 30 years ago, with Thailand being the first country to do so.

Thailand’s disease burden is shifting rapidly to diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and cancer. Secretary Sebelius witnessed CDC’s technical assistance to reduce salt and fat consumption, and met with Princess Chulabhorn to discuss the National Institutes of Health’s collaboration with Thailand in cancer research.

In a visit to the Mae La Camp for Displaced Persons, Secretary Sebelius brought attention to HHS’s role in ensuring that refugees are healthy before resettling in the U.S. The delegation also visited health care facilities providing HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and counseling services to high-risk populations, including men who have sex with men. At Silom Clinic, Secretary Sebelius discussed cutting-edge prevention trials that will be used to help curb the spread of HIV both in the U.S. and abroad.

Secretary Sebelius was joined on this trip by Dr. Tom Frieden (Director, CDC) and Ambassador Jimmy Kolker (Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs, HHS).

For more pictures from Vietnam, see here. For more pictures from Thailand, see here.