Asian Governments, Communities Need to Take More Action to Fight HIV/AIDS, AIDS Experts Say

Asian governments and communities need to take more action to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS in the region, international AIDS experts said on Wednesday in Hong Kong during a discussion panel sponsored by the Asia Society, the AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports (Wong, AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 3/24). About 7.2 million people in Asia are HIV-positive, five million of whom live in China and India, and an estimated 500,000 people died of AIDS-related complications in Asia in 2002 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/1/03). Viravaidya Mechai, a Thai senator and family planning expert, told the forum that "everyone" -- not just doctors -- needs to work to help to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS, according to the AP/Post-Intelligencer. "We cannot sit back and expect governments alone to do it," Mechai said, adding, "Take care of your own workers, take care of your own customers." Marina Mahathir, a forum participant and daughter of Malaysia's former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, said that prevention and treatment efforts should "come hand-in-hand," according to the AP/Post-Intelligencer. Wan Yanhai, a former Chinese Health Ministry official who was detained for a month by Chinese officials for publicizing an internal government report on HIV/AIDS, said that the Chinese central government now is doing more to help the regions most affected by the disease. However, Wan added that some local authorities are "disrupting" some private efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, according to the AP/Post-Intelligencer. Dr. David Ho, director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York, said that Western countries also should help fund antiretroviral drug provision in Asia, according to the AP/Post-Intelligencer. "The treatment prices in the West are too high," Ho said, adding, "No one really could afford $10,000 [to] $12,000 a year. It's certainly way out of reach for people in the developing countries" (AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 3/24).

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