UN Highlights Asians' Risky Behavior With HIV/AIDS
November 21, 2006
Asia had an estimated 960,000 new HIV infections and 630,000 AIDS-related deaths over the past year, bringing the total number of HIV/AIDS cases in the region to around 8.6 million, UNAIDS said today. The disease, the agency warned, is thriving on risky behavior in Southeast Asia and is slowly taking root in China, the world's most populous nation.
Southeast Asia accounts for the highest infection levels due to three high-risk behaviors: unprotected commercial sex, unprotected homosexual sex and IV drug use. "Serious epidemics" among male sexual partners "are now becoming evident" in Cambodia, China, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam, UNAIDS found. Few of these countries, it said, have AIDS programs that adequately address the role of sex between men in their national epidemics.
Authorities believe around 44 percent of China's estimated 650,000 HIV infections were transmitted through injecting drugs. In 2005, UNAIDS said half of new HIV infections in the country were attributed to risky unprotected sex. "This indicates that HIV is spreading gradually from people at higher risk of exposure to the general population, and subsequently the number of women becoming infected with HIV is growing," the agency said.
According to the report, India accounted for two-thirds of Asia's cases in 2005 with 5.7 million cases. Yet the epidemic appears to be slowing or stabilizing in certain areas of the world's second-most populous nation. India's modest overall increase is mainly attributed to unprotected sex between men and women, which spreads HIV more widely among the female population, it said.
Around 235,000 people are receiving antiretroviral treatment in the region, three times as many as in 2003, UNAIDS said. However, that represents just 16 percent of those living with HIV/AIDS in Asia. Only Thailand has managed to provide treatment to more than half of patients in need, the agency found.
Agence France Presse
11.21.2006; Peter Capella