Asian Leaders Have ‘Window of Opportunity’ To Avert HIV/AIDS Crisis, Report Says
Asian leaders can avert an HIV/AIDS crisis if they act quickly to break social taboos, attack stigma, encourage prevention programs and provide access to treatment and support systems for HIV-positive people, according to an Asia Pacific Leadership Forum report released Tuesday at the XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, Agence France-Presse reports. "Political leaders in Asia and the Pacific have a precious window of opportunity to save millions of people from HIV infection. But to succeed, they will need to drastically increase spending on AIDS and scale up prevention, care and treatment programs," APLF members said (Agence France-Presse, 7/13). APLF, which is funded by Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union, is an initiative founded in 2001 to promote effective leadership and intensify commitment to fighting HIV (UNAIDS release, 7/13). According to the report, more than seven million of the world's 38 million HIV-positive people live in the Asia-Pacific region. Of those, about one million became infected in 2003 alone. The report noted that India, where 5.1 million HIV-positive people live, "is second only to South Africa as the country with the greatest number of people living with HIV" (Agence France-Presse, 7/13). However, the report said that India -- as well as other countries in the region, including Indonesia and China -- is beginning to treat the problem with greater urgency. Anand Panyarachun, former prime minister of Thailand and chair of the APLF steering committee, said, "In a society where there are religious, social, cost and other constraints, it's even more vital to have political leadership" to combat HIV/AIDS. The report called on governments in the region to encourage civil society, nongovernmental organizations, community groups and people with HIV/AIDS to help formulate a response to the disease (UNAIDS release, 7/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.