HIV Spreading Faster in Asia Than in Africa, Report Says
HIV is spreading faster in Asia than in Africa, and the epidemic is worsening due to complacent governments, inadequate health infrastructure and widespread stigma, according to a report released on Tuesday by ActionAid-Asia, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. About 7.2 million people in Asia are HIV-positive, five million of whom live in China and India, and an estimated 500,000 people died of AIDS-related complications in Asia last year, according to the AP/Sun (Joshi, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 11/25). According to the report, titled "Time to Act," low HIV prevalence rates in countries such as India and China are masking the large number of HIV-positive people and the existence of HIV/AIDS "hotspots." The report also says that economic development initiatives are being undermined by the epidemic and that inadequate legal frameworks have left HIV-positive people open to discrimination and stigmatization. In addition, "falling budgets ... , privatization of health services, poor health practices and contaminated blood supplies" have increased demands on the countries' health care systems, the report says (ActionAid-Asia release, 11/25). The AIDS epidemic is "both a cause and consequence of poverty and human rights violations," according to the report. The report urges Asian governments to learn from successful HIV/AIDS initiatives in other countries and work together to ensure a price reduction on essential medicines, such as antiretroviral drugs (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 11/25). "Compassion and a humane response are necessary to deal with AIDS," John Samuel, director of ActionAid-Asia, said, adding that "compassion cannot be a substitute for government action. ... Recognizing the needs and rights of people living with HIV/AIDS, ensuring their welfare and enabling access to affordable medicines should be the priority" (ActionAid-Asia release, 11/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.