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International News

Sri Lanka: Hope Sets Tone for AIDS Congress

August 20, 2007

Despite many other problems, the relatively low prevalence of HIV in the world's most populous region gives reason for hope, officials said Sunday at the opening of the 8th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Speaking of his nation's HIV prevalence rate of 0.1 percent, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse said, "Comparatively small as this figure is in the international context of this great menace, we must not pat ourselves on our backs ... Every victim is one too many," he said, adding, "low prevalence does not mean no threat."

"I invite all [regional leaders] join together in harmonizing our leadership approaches across the Asia and Pacific region and improve the lot of all our people in the face of the advancing danger of HIV and AIDS." Rajapakse warned that "denial of the crisis can have serious consequences on economic development, social advancement and the very future of our societies."

The number of people in Asia-Pacific receiving antiretroviral therapy has more than tripled since 2003, and some 235,000 patients were receiving the drugs by June 2006, said Deborah Langley, deputy to UNAIDS chief Dr. Peter Piot. This, however, represents just 16 percent of Asian patients in need of treatment.

Among specific challenges facing the region:

  • Experts say anti-AIDS discrimination and stigma are causing many to avoid testing out of fear of ostracism.
  • Improved transportation infrastructures are making it easier for people to leave their families behind and go in search of better jobs. Men in such situations often turn to sex workers for companionship and may later bring HIV back home to their wives.

Langley exhorted prevention workers to "know your epidemics at the national level" so as to be able to target specific groups or regions in need of effective interventions.

Back to other news for August 2007

Adapted from:
Inter Press Service
8.20.2007; Suvendrini Kakuchi

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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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