HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Asia-Pacific Region Could Surpass Sub-Saharan Africa, Officials Warn
Asia's HIV/AIDS epidemic could surpass the size of affected populations in other areas if the continent does not implement prevention programs to contain the spread of the disease within the next few years, according to AIDS experts, Agence France-Presse reports. During a session of the Asia-Pacific Leadership Forum on HIV/AIDS and Development, UNAIDS official Werasit Sittitrai said, "It is now recognized that the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Asia and the Pacific region is at an early stage. This means that we have time, but time is running out. ... In the next few years if we cannot contain the epidemic, the size of infected and affected populations in this region will dwarf those of other regions combined." A recent UNAIDS report estimated that 5.6 million people in the Asia-Pacific region were HIV-positive at the end of 2001 (Agence France-Presse, 8/1). Officials warned that the disease could negatively affect the economic growth and the political stability of the region. "We are fighting this virus because it has the potential to undermine the development gains that we have been striving for," Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said (Associated Press, 8/1). The leadership forum will coordinate anti-AIDS efforts by governments, officials, the private sector and community and religious leaders (Agence France-Presse, 8/1).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.