Number of HIV-Positive People in Asia Could Double in Five Years Without More Funding, Improved Government Response, Commission Says
The number of HIV-positive people in Asia could more than double to 20 million during the next five years unless funding levels increase and governments respond more effectively to the epidemic, officials from the Commission on AIDS in Asia said on Friday at a two-day Southeast Asia sub-regional workshop in Manila, the Philippines, the AP/ABCNews reports. There currently are 8.6 million HIV-positive people living in Asia, according to the AP/ABCNews. According to the commission, an average 500,000 people in Asia die from AIDS-related illnesses annually, and the disease causes an estimated $10 billion in financial losses annually. According to the commission, which is funded by UNAIDS, the figure could almost triple to $29 billion without greater control of the epidemic during the next five years. In addition, although UNAIDS estimates that the number of people with HIV/AIDS with access to antiretroviral treatment has increased more than threefold since 2003, only 16% of people in Asia who need the drugs currently have access to them. According to UNAIDS, Thailand is the only country in the region that provides antiretroviral access to at least 50% of people who need the drugs. Regional HIV control funding is at 10% of the $5 billion needed annually, the commission said. According to Chakravarthy Rangarajan, chair of the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's economic advisory council, more than 80% of current funding for HIV/AIDS in the region comes from foreign aid organizations, and he said the region needs to focus on generating domestic funding. According to the commission, the factors resulting in an inadequate response to the region's HIV/AIDS epidemic include a lack of awareness and understanding among policymakers about the long-term effects of HIV/AIDS; difficulty in predicting the dynamics of the disease's progression; and a lack of funding. In addition, sex is a taboo subject in the region, and there are few efforts to educate young people about the issue. Further, sex with multiple partners and injection drug use often are considered criminal acts, which leave many vulnerable populations facing stigma and limited access to health care services, the commission said (AP/ABCNews, 3/30).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.