UN raises alarm on AIDS epidemic in Asia|
A man walks past an AIDS awareness billboard in
©AFP/File - Hoang Dinh Nm
UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - Asian governments must devote more funds to preventing
AIDS or face the risk the disease could kill nearly 500,000 people each year
across the continent by 2020, a United Nations report says.
While the international spotlight has often focused on AIDS in Africa, the
the study commissioned by the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS sounded the
alarm about the impact of the scourge in Asia.
About 440,000 currently die from the disease each year in Asia, the report
The study released Wednesday also said the overall number of infected people
would likely double to 10 million by 2020 if prevention efforts are not
"Despite a declining trend of new HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) infections
in a few countries, AIDS still accounts for more deaths annually among 15 to 44
year-olds than do tuberculosis and other diseases," it noted.
"The costs of inaction are simply too high," said the chairman of the
Commission on AIDS in Asia, Dr Chakravarthi Rangarajan, as he presented the
report to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Women walk past an AIDS awareness campaign billboard on the
outskirts of Yichang, China
©AFP/File - Frederic J. Brown
"Without concerted and evidence-based responses, Asia can expect an economic
(annual) loss of two billion dollars by 2020."
UNAIDS was working to draw attention to the effect of the disease on Asia,
warning against complacency as the scourge spreads.
"I'm the new face of AIDS, as a young Asian woman," said Frika Chia Iskandar,
the Indonesian coordinator of the Asia Pacific Network of People living with HIV
"For Asia, let's not wait for the crisis to happen," she told reporters.
Ban appealed to Asian countries to implement the Rangarajan-led panel's
recommendations, including increased funding for prevention efforts.
"Asian countries can avert massive increases in infections and death, prevent
economic losses, and save millions of people from poverty," he noted. "Such
leadership is critical in Asia today."
"We will never see equitable progress if some parts of the population are
still denied basic health and human rights -- people living with HIV, sex
workers, men who have sex with men, and young people who inject drugs," the UN
A Thai AIDS patient lies on a bed at the AIDS hospital in
©AFP/File - Pornchai Kittiwongsakul
"Today less than 20 percent of the resources required to tackle AIDS (in
Asia) are available," said UNAIDS executive director Peter Piot.
Indeed Rangarajan's report noted that last year, an estimated 1.2 billion
dollars was available for AIDS programs in Asia, while the amount needed "for an
effective response" was estimated at 6.4 billion dollars.
The study said "a minimum of 0.30 percent per capita must be spent annually
on prevention for it to be effective."
It noted that an annual budget of one billion dollars for focused prevention
programs among most-at-risk populations could reduce infections by 60 percent in
Piot said the findings showed "the diversity of the AIDS epidemics in Asia
and the need for countries to understand what is driving their epidemics and how
to reach populations most at risk of HIV infection."
The 238-page report noted that HIV transmission in Asia was driven primarily
by three high-risk behaviors: unprotected commercial sex, injecting drug use and
unprotected sex between men.
It cautioned that "reliable HIV data is a precondition for taking effective
action against the epidemics."
It also said that prevention programs should focus on increasing the
consistent use of condoms during paid sex and by men engaging in gay sex.
The programs should also focus on protecting wives of men who buy sex, and on
providing sex education in schools and colleges, according to the study.
The report, the most comprehensive study on the AIDS epidemic in Asia, was
based on online responses from hundreds of representatives of community groups
involved in AIDS-related work throughout the region.
Across Asia, an estimated 4.9 million people were living with HIV, including
440,000 newly infected in the past year, while about 300,000 died from
AIDS-related illnesses in 2007, according to UNAIDS's annual report issued in
It showed Southeast Asia had the highest prevalence of HIV in the continent,
with Indonesia having the fastest rate of growth of HIV-infected people.
More than 33 million people around the world are living with HIV or AIDS,
according to UNAIDS.
Original article: AFP
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