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International News
UNAIDS Urges Asia-Pacific Law Enforcement to Become Involved in Fight Against HIV/AIDS

February 9, 2009

UNAIDS at a recent three-day conference urged police and law enforcement in Asia and the Pacific region to become more involved in efforts to curb the spread of HIV, VOA News reports. During the conference, which was attended by 15 Asian-Pacific countries, UNAIDS speakers focused on ways to increase cooperative involvement between law enforcement and groups of people living with HIV/AIDS, despite the challenges associated with raising awareness among police forces and communities. According to VOA News, almost five million people are living with HIV in South and Southeast Asia. Janine Monahan, HIV/AIDS human rights project manager with the New Zealand police, said it is essential to break down social barriers associated with the virus. She said, "We are going into an area where the 'public-private divide' is starting to shift. What we are now saying is that it cannot be private anymore, because it is actually going to affect our police forces. If they get sick, if they infect their family, it actually is going to affect the community."

According to VOA News, police forces in some countries already are becoming involved in community efforts to address HIV/AIDS. India's West Bengal state Police Inspector-General Soumen Mitra said a key challenge in fighting HIV/AIDS is changing the perceptions surrounding the disease. Mitra said that the police force has initiated programs within the community so that "we ourselves as police officers and police personnel bring about some change in our own attitude and we know how to serve" people living with HIV/AIDS or those at an increased risk of the disease. VOA News reports that police commissioners and chiefs from the 21 regional states in the Pacific Islands are initiating programs to increase awareness among law enforcement officers, particularly in response to the increasing number being called for active duty as international peacekeepers. Datuk Mohd Zaman Khan, vice president of the Malaysian AIDS Council and a former police commissioner, said that as HIV cases increase in the community, police involvement in social support becomes important. Zaman Khan said HIV in Malaysia is "comparatively new to the police department" and used to be "treated very confidentially." Now, HIV is becoming more widespread and has "come to the open, and therefore the police department is beginning to be involved," he said (Corben, VOA News, 2/5).

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