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International News

Stigma of AIDS Still Hampers War on Killer Virus in Asia: Experts

July 1, 2005

Deep-rooted stigma against people with HIV/AIDS is preventing people from accessing treatment in Asia, where resources to fight the disease are increasing. "We must work to ease the stigma against people with HIV," said Hiroshi Hasegawa, a veteran Japanese AIDS activist. Hasegawa will be among 3,000 delegates from 60 countries at the 7th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific in Kobe, Japan, July 1-5.

"Women in South Asia, gays in Northeast Asia, drug users in Southeast Asia: they are vulnerable to infections, but they are socially weak," Hasegawa said. "That stops them from advocacy or openly seeking the treatments available."

"How are we going to listen to the voices of vulnerable people who are often victims of the disease?" asked Masayoshi Tarui, vice secretary-general of the congress' secretariat and professor of philosophy at Keio University. "How are we going to include their voices in social policies? Those are the issues to be addressed at the conference."

Experts said the Asia-Pacific region has a lower infection rate -- about 0.4 percent of adults -- but more resources to fight HIV than areas such as Africa. UNAIDS said an estimated 5.4 million-11.8 million Asians had HIV in 2004, up from 4.6 million-10.5 million in 2002.

Although treatments are reaching the region, experts said many governments still lack the will to fight the disease effectively. "We are finally seeing treatments becoming available, even in developing countries," said Tarui. "Governments must take coordinated leadership roles to fight HIV infections in the region."

Advocates are calling for better public information campaigns on HIV/AIDS in Asia to encourage patients to seek help.

Back to other news for July 1, 2005

Adapted from:
Agence France Presse

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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.
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