UN Official Warns Asia Could Face World's Worst AIDS Crisis
October 7, 2002
Asia could face the world's largest AIDS crisis if the region does not act quickly with preventive measures, a UN official warned Monday. So far, Asia has not been infected nearly as badly as sub-Saharan Africa, so the disease is not as visible and public awareness is not as high as in many developed Western nations, creating a climate of ignorance, said Peter Piot, head of UNAIDS.Adapted from:
People with HIV/AIDS can face discrimination in the work place in most Asian nations, and shame can keep the disease underground, making it harder to control, experts say. Some 7 million Asians are infected with HIV -- with the greatest number in India, but higher percentages of infected people in Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar, Piot told a news conference. "With HIV spreading very fast in many countries, it is now that one can stop an epidemic," Piot said. "The longer one waits, the bigger the bill will be and the more lives it will cost."
The London-based banking company Standard Chartered, which operates extensively in poor nations, plans to launch an AIDS awareness program in Asia that replicates its work to minimize the impact of the disease in Africa. Chief Executive for Malaysia John Kivits said the disease has caused major disruptions to the lives of many of the bank's 5,000 employees in 13 African countries and sharply raised operating costs. "On any one day, we have got 10 percent absenteeism in Africa on HIV matters -- either they're ill or they're attending to relatives or attending funerals," Kivits said.
Piot said Asia's 7 million people with HIV comprise the second largest group outside sub-Saharan Africa. "The epidemic in Asia threatens to become the largest in the world," Piot said. "With more than half the world's population, the region must treat AIDS as an issue of regional urgency. The question is no longer whether Asia will have a major epidemic, but rather how massive it will be."
10.07.02; Dirk Beveridge
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.