Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
Asian Nations Must Break the ‘Conspiracy of Silence’ Around HIV/AIDS to Halt Rising Infection Rates, Experts Say
-- China and India in particular -- must "break the conspiracy of silence" surrounding HIV/AIDS to halt rising infection levels, experts said on Thursday, Agence France-Presse reports. Compared to sub-Saharan Africa, HIV infection rates in Asia are low -- only 7.1 million people are known to be infected in the region -- but rising rates among sex workers point to a potential "explo[sion]" if further prevention measures are not taken. Speaking publicly about HIV/AIDS "would certainly change completely the face of this pandemic in this part of the world," Michel Sidibe of UNAIDS said. He noted that Thailand and Brazil had lowered infection rates through awareness campaigns that targeted sex workers and the general public and sought to "brin[g] the disease out into the open." Jeffrey Sachs, director of Harvard University's Center for International Development, noted that experts are not sure how many people in China and India have HIV/AIDS because "surveillance is so weak and because there has not been sufficient openness, sufficient testing and sufficient public discussion of these issues to get people to come to clinics." But if estimates about rising infection rates are correct, the diseases could cause "dire" economic consequences in the two countries (Morarjee, Agence France-Presse, 5/9). Sachs, speaking at a seminar at the Asian Development Bank's 35th annual meeting, noted that higher HIV prevalence could negatively affect tourism and could "prompt skilled workers to flee communities." The disease could also "hit household savings" as more money is needed for medications and health care costs and income is lost due to illness (Priest, Reuters, 5/9). However, China is "in a position to carry the torch" in the fight against the disease, he said, noting, "When you have ... less than one million people [infected] and you have 1.3 billion people then you can really prevent this problem with clear policies and clear priorities." Sachs added that a "comprehensive" plan to target high-risk groups and treat those who already have the virus is needed (Agence France-Presse, 5/9).
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