Two-Day South Asia Conference To Focus on ‘Boosting Fight’ Against HIV/AIDS
Health officials from UNAIDS and UNICEF and the countries of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan today met in Kathmandu, Nepal, for a two-day conference on "boosting the fight" against HIV/AIDS in the region, Agence France-Presse reports. Officials from Uganda and Thailand are expected to "share their experience" in preventing the spread of the disease in their countries (Agence France-Presse, 2/3). "There were 4.2 million people living with AIDS in South Asia in 2001, compared with two million in 1994. The number is growing every year and [is] getting worse," Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, said. Health officials attribute the rapid spread of the disease to migration, cross-border trafficking of women and girls and a lack of education, the Associated Press reports (Gurubacharya, Associated Press, 2/3). "The millions of children and young people affected by HIV/AIDS are living proof of the world's collective failure to protect them. This is the reality of South Asia: the tipping point has been reached, and the window of opportunity to act is closing rapidly," Carol Bellamy, executive director of UNICEF, said. Bellamy called for increased access to education and an end to all gender-based discrimination, exploitation and abuse and the trafficking of women and girls (nepalnews.com, 2/3). While sub-Saharan Africa has more HIV and AIDS cases than the rest of the world, experts warn that the disease could "escalate" in South Asia. India, the largest country in the region, has four million HIV-positive people, more than any other country except South Africa, according to official estimates, and U.S. projections predict that that number could reach 20 million to 25 million by 2010 if prevention efforts are not expanded (Agence France-Presse, 2/3).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.