Effective Public Health Response Needed To Fight HIV/AIDS in Southeast Asia, WHO Says
The World Health Organization on Thursday called for an effective public health approach to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS in Southeast Asia, India's Economic Times reports. HIV/AIDS in the region was the focus of the third day of WHO's 61st Session of the Regional Committee for Southeast Asia, which is taking place in New Delhi. Samlee Plianbangchang, WHO regional director for Southeast Asia, said, "Countries have demonstrated that implementing an effective response is feasible, both to halt and reserve epidemics and to provide services to those in need." He added that WHO promotes a public health approach to fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS based on the experiences of other health programs (Economic Times, 9/11).
Health ministers and other officials from 11 Southeast Asian countries began the committee meeting on Monday. An estimated 3.6 million people in Southeast Asia are living with HIV/AIDS, and approximately 260,000 new HIV cases and 300,000 AIDS-related deaths occurred in the region in 2007. Countries taking part in the meeting are Bangladesh, Bhutan, East Timor, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, North Korea, Sri Lanka and Thailand. According to health officials, the groups most affected by HIV/AIDS in the region are commercial sex workers and their clients, injection drug users and men who have sex with men (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/8).
The committee also examined other health issues, such as maternal and infant deaths in the region (Economic Times, 9/11). About 98% of the region's infant and maternal deaths occur in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar and Nepal, Sindh Today reports. In addition, of the nearly 37 million infants born in Southeast Asia annually, about 1.3 million die in their first month of life (Sindh Today, 9/10).