WHO Calls on Asia to Battle Complacency, Step Up Prevention Efforts
The World Health Organization yesterday issued a statement yesterday warning Asian nations that the "danger of complacency is one of the biggest threats to HIV/AIDS control in the region" and calling on them to step up prevention efforts, Agence France-Presse reports. Issued at the close of a week-long meeting of WHO's regional committee for the Western Pacific, which includes 37 countries and territories from Southeast and Northeast Asia to Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, the statement said that although HIV prevention efforts in the region have been largely successful, the "potential for a more serious HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Western Pacific region cannot be ruled out unless countries in the region with high prevalence [rates] make renewed efforts" to control HIV/AIDS. "[P]ockets of high HIV transmission," particularly in border regions, could lead to a resurgence, WHO warned. WHO asked nations in the region to pay close attention to injection drug use, citing surveys in China, Malaysia and Vietnam that have recently indicated that sex workers are becoming infected through the practice. In addition, the statement:
- asked countries with low HIV prevalence to "intervene early and target high-risk sectors" using "proven" intervention techniques;
- called for the creation of health services for sex workers and "harm reduction programs" for IV drug users; and
- called for a "general strengthening" of STD prevention programs, citing the success of Cambodia's "100% Condom Use" program, which aided a "significant decline" in HIV among sex workers.