Asia-Pacific: Instability, Conservative Social Attitudes Hamper Fight Against AIDS, UN Official Says
August 23, 2007
On Monday, UNAIDS Director for Asia and the Pacific Prasada Rao warned that regional efforts to control HIV's spread are being hampered by growing political instability, stigma, and conservative social attitudes.
Every year in the region, almost a half-million people become infected with HIV and as many as 300,000 die of an AIDS-related illness, Rao told the 8th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific. "The harsh reality is that the grim march of the epidemic in our region continues unabated," he said.
Rao cited the disturbing trend of continued opposition to condom promotion and sex education in the region. "There is no doubt anymore that condoms continue to be the only effective prevention tool available for protection against HIV, yet opposition to its promotion continues in many countries," he said.
Rao said that in India, as many as 11 state governments have banned or are banning sex education in schools, and there is little opposition to this from civic groups. "It's baffling, really," he said. "Why should this happen?"
Regional conflicts are also affecting prevention and treatment efforts. At the last regional conference two years ago, only Nepal was experiencing significant conflict, said Rao. Now, eight more countries are politically unstable.
Though India and Thailand have had some success in HIV/AIDS control, Rao said he is concerned China, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh could be the next frontlines of the epidemic. "These are large countries and they have the potential of an epidemic to take root, so they need a strong program," he noted.
08.22.2007; Ravi Nessman
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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.