Scroll To Top

Asian countries
warned to strengthen anti-HIV efforts

Asian countries
warned to strengthen anti-HIV efforts

Asian countries need to promote voluntary HIV testing, develop programs to stop transmission of the virus, and empower groups at risk of infection to stop the HIV epidemic from worsening, participants at a regional AIDS conference said Thursday.

An estimated 5.4 million people in the region are infected with HIV, but that number could quickly rise if governments remain complacent, said Samlee Plianbanchang, the World Health Organization's Southeast Asia director.

''In the Asia-Pacific region, we are at a high risk for a massive outbreak of HIV,'' he said.

Plianbanchang spoke at the closing of a five-day conference that brought together 2,500 government officials, AIDS activists, and health professionals in Colombo, Sri Lanka, to discuss ways of tackling the spread of HIV in the world's most populous region.

During the conference, experts hailed government programs in Thailand, Cambodia, and some states in India, where coordinated efforts appear to have turned the tide against the virus. But they expressed fears that other nations, including China, Indonesia, and Pakistan, could be the next battlegrounds.

The stigma against sex workers, men engaging in homosexual sex and intravenous drug users--those most vulnerable to the virus--hampered outreach efforts, as did the refusal of many countries to implement condom distribution and sex education programs, they said.

In its closing declaration the conference called on governments with low HIV rates to remain vigilant and recognize an outbreak could occur anytime.

It called for the promotion of voluntary testing and counseling and new efforts to help those infected get treatment.

Governments should fight poverty, gender inequality, stigmatization, and other underlying causes of the epidemic's spread, the declaration said. They also need to create programs to stop mother-to-child transmission of the virus, promote sex education, end child marriage and violence against women, and treat drug abuse as a public health issue instead of a crime, it said.

''There is a big gap between what we know...and the application of that knowledge,'' Plianbanchang said.

Prasada Rao, UNAIDS regional director, called for a new wave of civic activism to pressure governments to take the steps needed to fight the epidemic.

''There are no shortcuts to success,'' he said. (Ravi Nessman, AP)

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Outtraveler Staff