Asian Countries Risk Expanded HIV/AIDS Epidemics Without Government Intervention, Experts Say
Asia is "poised on the brink of an HIV/AIDS explosion unless governments take radical steps to rein in the disease" and the socio-economic problems that are "fueling" its spread, Susan Hunter, an independent consultant for UNAIDS, said on Wednesday, Inter Press Service News Agency reports. In her new book, titled "AIDS in Asia: A Continent in Peril," Hunter warns that current regional data on HIV/AIDS likely are "vastly underestimated" and that the situation will worsen unless issues, such as women's rights, are addressed, according to Inter Press Service. According to a November 2004 annual UNAIDS report, an estimated 8.2 million HIV-positive people live in Asia. In addition, 1.2 million new HIV cases and 540,000 AIDS-related deaths occurred in Asia in 2004, according to the report. However, Hunter said she believes those numbers represent only about 10% to 20% of the actual number of cases. "The epidemic is much, much, much more serious than the official numbers ever convey," she said. Laurie Garrett, a journalist and health expert, said, "Perhaps Asia is yet to experience its tipping point," adding, "Perhaps the explosive nudge has not yet occurred." Hunter said that individual governments, which are in "massive denial" about the HIV/AIDS pandemic, need to increase efforts to curb the spread of the disease and Western nations need to "live up to their aid commitments," according to Inter Press Service (Baker, Inter Press Service News Agency, 2/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.