South Asia AIDS Conference Ends With Call To ‘Accelerate Action’ Against the Disease
A South Asia conference on HIV/AIDS ended on Tuesday with participants acknowledging the "potential for a large-scale epidemic" and the necessity of "collective responsibility and accountability" of governments and leaders throughout the region, the Nepalese National Daily reports (Nepalese National Daily, 2/5). The meeting, organized by UNAIDS and UNICEF, brought together government officials, religious leaders, young people and people living with HIV/AIDS to discuss the conference's theme of "accelerating the momentum in the fight against HIV/AIDS in South Asia" (U.N. release, 2/4). At the conclusion of the conference, participants adopted the "The Kathmandu Call Against HIV/AIDS in South Asia: Accelerating Action and Results." The document recognized the role that poverty, illiteracy, gender inequality and other factors have in increasing the spread of HIV and called for education, expanded access to "commodities," "strong leadership" and "overcoming" stigma and discrimination as important measures in controlling the epidemic (Nepalese National Daily, 2/5). The document also recommended that the participating countries -- Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka -- set up mechanisms to monitor their progress in fighting HIV/AIDS (Agence France-Presse, 1/5). Although sub-Saharan Africa has more HIV/AIDS cases than the rest of the world combined, 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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/3). "South Asia stands at what epidemiologists call the 'tipping point' in the trajectory of the disease," Carol Bellamy, executive director of UNICEF, said. Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, said that immediate action could prevent five million new infections by 2010 but that delay "will only aggravate the epidemic and reverse South Asia's expected economic and social progress" (U.N. release, 2/4).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.