In 1999, USAID launched the Laos Economic Acceleration Program for the Silk Sector (LEAPSS). This program was built on experiences developed under the Lao-American Crop Control Program, and has the specific objective of making the production of raw and processed silk a viable economic alternative to opium production.
Program activities have expanded the area under mulberry cultivation and increased the volume of silk produced. Activities also assist with improving the processing and marketing of raw silk and silk weavings, to improve the status of women weavers and increase profitability for silk producers.
Program activities focus efforts in two provinces where some of the most intensive fighting occurred in Laos during the war. This program is presently funded through FY 2003. The program partner is World Education/World Learning Consortium.
USAID's other objective in Laos is to maintain the low levels of HIV prevalence by strengthening the local capacity to monitor the epidemic and behaviors contributing to its spread while also educating those at risk and highlighting the importance of prevention. Through Regional HIV/AIDS Programs in the Asia and Near East Bureau, USAID has supported a small number of HIV/AIDS activities in Laos since 1998.
In addition, the Regional HIV/AIDS Programs have supported cross-border activities (involving Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam) in order to expand surveillance and educate mobile populations on HIV prevention. These activities will now be funded under the new SO 439-005.