The World Health
Organization urged political leaders in the Western
Pacific region to step up efforts to stop the spread of the
AIDS virus, saying the number of infections continues
to grow. In 2006 an estimated 8.6 million people in
Asia were living with HIV, nearly 1 million of whom
were infected in the past year, WHO said on Thursday,
calling for greater government action to fight the
spread of the virus.
to step up efforts to reduce the spread of HIV," said
Shigeru Omi, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific,
covering 37 countries from China in the west to Fiji
and Vanuatu in the east.
About half of the
new infections in 2006 occurred through unprotected
sex, Omi said, pointing to Vietnam and Papua New Guinea as
potential hot spots.
The number of
people living with HIV in Vietnam has doubled since 2000,
reaching about 260,000 last year. The HIV prevalence rate
among adults in Papua New Guinea has also increased
dramatically since 2003.
behavior, such as injection-drug use, unprotected paid
sex, and unprotected sex between men, is especially evident
in the HIV epidemics in some regions, including Asia,"
He said an
estimated 44% of the people living with HIV in Asia were
believed to have been infected while injecting drugs. As
many as 11% of these drug users also engaged in
high-risk sexual activities.
WHO, which has
its Western Pacific headquarters in Manila, Philippines,
said risky behavior among injection-drug users increased the
chance of spreading HIV among and beyond at-risk
population groups. In Thailand, one third of new
infections were now married women, a group generally
considered to be at low risk.
WHO said it was
putting more emphasis on government accountability for
this year's World AIDS Day on December 1, asking political
leaders to raise greater awareness of HIV/AIDS and
support programs to stop the spread of the disease.
Omi said WHO was
pushing for fresh strategies to prevent HIV
transmission, including efforts to discourage sharing of
drug paraphernalia, reduce stigmatization, and promote
voluntary counseling and testing. Omi said WHO was
also calling for better marketing of condom use in the