- MELBOURNE, Australia (AFP)
- Asia risks an explosion of HIV infection unless governments wake up to
the problem, a report released on the eve of the Sixth International
on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP) warns.
- The report, released Thursday, warns there is clear
for an extensive spread of HIV if preventive action is too little or too
- Early and large-scale preventive action has kept
low in parts of Asia but according to "Status and Trends of the
Epidemic in Asia and the Pacific," these low HIV infection rates do
not necessarily mean rates will remain low forever.
- "Some countries in the region began prevention
early and they are reaping the benefits today," Peter Piot, executive
director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS),
- "Elsewhere, however, epidemics will continue their
natural course unless prevention programmes quickly reach the population
groups most vulnerable to
- "HIV related stigma and discrimination remain an
immense barrier to effectively fighting the most devastating epidemic
has ever known," Piot added.
- Although only three Asian countries -- Cambodia, Myanmar
and Thailand -- have registered nationwide prevalence rates of over one
percent, the report says these low rates mask an uneven geographic
- It says that national figures are meaningless in huge
countries like China and India, where some states or provinces have larger
populations than most of the world's countries.
- The report, published by Monitoring the AIDS Pandemic
(MAP), an international network of HIV experts, warns that recent HIV
in specific locations should be seen as a serious warning of a more
- In the Guangxi province in China, 9.9 percent of sex
workers were found to have HIV in the second quarter of 2000 but the figure
rose to 10.7 percent by the fourth quarter.
- And in Vietnam, infection levels are rising quickly,
in some cases exponentially.
- In Ho Chi Minh City, HIV infection rates among sex
and their clients increased from virtually nil in 1996 to more than 20
percent in 2000.
- Recent data from Indonesia -- where for many years the
epidemic was virtually undetectable -- also shows a significant increase
- Indonesia has recorded a jump in HIV among sex workers
from six percent to 26 percent in three centres, with several recorded
HIV outbreaks among injecting drug users around the country.
- Nationally, the proportion of blood donors infected --
in this context, an indication of HIV spread in the population at large
-- increased significantly, from almost nothing in the early 1990s to one
per 1,000 in
- HIV infection among pregnant women, often used as an
indicator of HIV penetration into the general population, is also quite
significant in some countries.
- The report warns that China, Indonesia and Vietnam are
in a transitional phase and may be on the brink of potentially explosive
- And it calls for prevention programmes targeting the
general population to be put in place alongside programmes for high-risk
- Professor Anthony Smith from the Australian Research
Centre on Sex, Health and Society said sexual inequality was eroding
to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Asian-Pacific region.
- "In a country like India, for example,
ideas about gender frame the way in which HIV/AIDS prevention programs
are developed and implemented," he added.
- India has 3.7 million people infected with HIV/AIDS,
out of a total of 6.4 million people for all Asia and the Pacific.
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