Japan's Official Development Assistance White Paper 2006
Column II-5 The Bridge of Hope Connecting Thailand and Laos: A Yen Loan Project Takes Steps against AIDS
Infrastructure development projects such as bridge construction and port equipment in developing countries activate human movement since a large number of migrant workers are employed for a long term to implement those projects. This has been known to be associated with the risk of the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS, depending on the situations of regions. Through ODA, Japan has actively dealt with infectious diseases as a global issue, and has promoted measures against HIV/AIDS in the implementation of yen loan projects.
One example of these projects is the Second Mekong International Bridge Construction Project. A yen loan in the amount of around ¥8 billion was provided for construction of the International Bridge. Started in 2004 and to be completed in December 2006, this international bridge spans 1,600 meters and connects Thailand and Laos. This bridge forms a part of the Indochina East-West Transport Corridor which connects Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and Viet Nam, and is expected to spur economic development in the Mekong region. About 1,300 laborers have been employed for this project, and they are traveling between Thailand and Laos every day to work on bridge construction.
In Thailand, HIV is a major public health problem: the number of people infected with HIV is estimated to be more than 1 million, and every year 20,000 people become infected. Moreover, in Laos it has been confirmed that infection is associated with the movement of people; laborers traveling into Thailand to work come into contact with people engaged in sex-related business. For this reason, it was thought that measures against HIV/AIDS would have to be taken with the laborers employed in this project. However, such measures would be the first to be taken by people of both countries concerned with the project, and some expressed concern that the measures might cause work delays and harm the company's image. In response, staff from JBIC, which is the yen loan implementing agency, continuously worked to obtain the understanding of the people concerned with the project in concert with local NGOs and health authorities. As a result, the local government, companies involved in the construction project, and NGOs specializing in HIV/AIDS countermeasures came to form an alliance to address the measure.
Together with the local NGOs and health authorities in the area, JBIC launched a program called "the Bridge of Hope" using the Japan Trust Fund for HIV/AIDS of the International Planned Parenthood Federation.1 Specifically, laborers were called in for education in HIV/AIDS prevention, counseling, and testing at the worksite in the early morning or during rest periods. In addition, posters bearing the slogan, "Helmets for the site, Condom for the night" were put up around the work site. As a result of these activities, the level of awareness of HIV/AIDS among the laborers in this project increased to 92.2%, as opposed to only 61.7% among area residents. The awareness of the companies involved also increased: at an international symposium concerning measures against AIDS, participants of companies actually involved in the construction work spoke of the need for corporate social responsibility to protect the safety and health of laborers engaged in construction work.
In addition to this project, HIV/AIDS countermeasures associated with yen loan projects have also been implemented in Cambodia, Viet Nam, Indonesia, and India, etc. Japan will continue to work actively to fight against HIV/AIDS through efforts such as incorporating measures against HIV/AIDS in the bidding documents for yen loan projects.
A scene of HIV/AIDS prevention education at a construction site (Photo: JBIC)
A scene of training for personnel in charge of HIV/AIDS education selected from among workers (Photo: JBIC)