International Herald Tribune Examines Potential ‘Resurgence’ of Thailand’s HIV/AIDS Epidemic
The International Herald Tribune on Sunday examined a possible "resurgence" of Thailand's HIV/AIDS epidemic, according to Mechai Viravaidya, a Thai senator and HIV/AIDS advocate. "Even the threat of a resurgence of AIDS represents a startling turnaround for Thailand and a cautionary lesson for a region where the AIDS epidemic is picking up momentum," the Herald Tribune reports. According to Thai government statistics, the country's 1.5% HIV prevalence rate is down from 2.4% more than 10 years ago and 1.8% in 2003. However, the number of cases of sexually transmitted diseases increased 30% in 2004, and surveys indicate that more teenagers are having sex and HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men has increased. In addition, an estimated 40% or more of injection drug users in Thailand are HIV-positive, and government needle-exchange and methadone treatment programs "have not materialized." Mechai has criticized the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as having become complacent about the epidemic. However, health department officials said the government under Thaksin has "sharply" increased spending on HIV/AIDS treatment and care, the Herald Tribune reports. According to a U.N. Development Programme study released last year, Thai government spending on HIV prevention in 2003 was about one-third of what it had been in 1997. Swarup Sarkar, regional director for UNAIDS in Bangkok, said, "There is still an opportunity to prevent resurgence, to nip it in the bud, but to do that the government has to focus on prevention, and that isn't happening" (Cumming-Bruce, International Herald Tribune, 11/27).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.