Standing on the Precipice Symposium at United Nations in Observance of World AIDS Day 2000
New York, November 30, 2000
-- The American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR)
today presented international experts to "sound the alarm" on a potentially devastating new front in the HIV/AIDS pandemic -- South and Southeast Asia.
At a United Nations World AIDS Day symposium on HIV/AIDS, experts from China, India and Thailand highlighted the contrasting ways their nations are dealing with the spreading pandemic.
"Much of the international HIV/AIDS focus has been on Africa," said Dr. Mathilde Krim, Founding Co-Chair and Chairman of the Board of amfAR. "But with 60 percent of the world's population, an exploding infection rate, and insufficient prevention efforts, South and Southeast Asia have become the flashpoint for AIDS in the next decade."
Highlights of the HIV/AIDS situation in the three countries:
- India already has one of the largest populations of HIV-infected people in the world, estimated by UNAIDS/WHO at 3.6 million. In fact, India may soon overtake South Africa as the nation with the largest population living with HIV. Some researchers believe the actual number of HIV-infected people in India could be as high as 11-20 million, since many of the infected have not been tested. By 2010, 30 million people in India could be infected with HIV.
- In China, medical experts complain that official inattention and a stifled public education program have allowed HIV to grow from a rare condition among drug abusers to a rapidly growing problem affecting hundreds of thousands of people today and millions within the next decade. Billboards promoting AIDS awareness in China were destroyed after being exhibited only several days because they were declared "indecent." On World AIDS Day 1999, China banned all advertisements and public awareness notices advocating the use of condoms.
- Thailand was the first developing country to approve a national plan for HIV vaccine development, resulting in as many as four HIV candidate vaccines. The Thai government ordered local communities to increase efforts to control AIDS and to improve assistance to HIV-infected people. The spread of infection has been greatly reduced, but the World Bank warned this year that Thailand risks a resurgence of HIV due to a decline in condom use.
"As the title of our symposium suggests, we are truly 'standing on the precipice' when we look at HIV/AIDS in South and Southeast Asia," said amfAR's Dr. Krim. "The grim lessons of HIV/AIDS in Africa and elsewhere can be used to thwart another catastrophic explosion of HIV infection and AIDS. Or those lessons can be ignored. The lives of many millions of people hang in the balance."
Symposium participants include:
- Suniti Solomon, MD (Chennai, India). Director, Centre for AIDS Research and Education, Y.R. Gaitonde Medical Educational and Research Foundation. (Bhaswati Bhattacharya, MD Rosenthal Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Columbia University, substituted for Suniti Solomon, MD)
- Mechai Viravaidya (Bangkok, Thailand). Ambassador for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.
- Yiming Shao, MD, PhD (Beijing, China). Director, National AIDS Reference Laboratory; Deputy Director, National Center for AIDS Prevention and Control.
- Daniel Tarantola, MD (Geneva, Switzerland). Senior Policy Adviser to the Director General, World Health Organization.
- Myron S. Cohen, MD (Chapel Hill, North Carolina). Professor of Medicine; Director, UNC Center for Infectious Diseases.
- Kenneth H. Mayer, MD (Pawtucket, Rhode Island). Director, Brown University AIDS Program; Chief, Infectious Disease Division, Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island.
The American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) is the nation's leading nonprofit organization dedicated to the support of AIDS research, AIDS prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of sound AIDS-related public policy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested nearly $175 million in support for its programs and awarded grants to more than 1,850 research teams worldwide.
Since 1988, World AIDS Day has played an important role in raising awareness of HIV/AIDS and spurring collective action. While research and prevention efforts have achieved notable progress, more than 34 million people are now living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, and more than 15,000 become newly infected each day.