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Tuesday 24th April 2018

AIDS on the rise in Asia

22nd November 2006

20092006_hiv1.jpgInfection rates for HIV are increasing in the Asia-Pacific region, with few receiving the treatment they need, a new UN report says.

The region saw approximately 630,000 deaths from AIDS-related illnesses in 2006, according to UNAIDS' 2006 Epidemic Update.

The report said that while the number of people receiving antiretroviral therapy in the region had increased more than threefold since 2003, only about 16% of the total number of people in need of antiretroviral treatment in Asia were getting it.

Only Thailand succeeding in providing treatment to at least 50% of people needing it.

HIV infection risk was associated in Southeast Asian countries with unprotected commercial sex, sex between men, and unsafe injecting drug use, the Update said.

It blamed the failure of governments adequately to address the role of sex between men in the epidemic.

"HIV outbreaks among men who have sex with men are now becoming evident in Cambodia, China, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam," it said.

"In very few of these countries, national AIDS programmes adequately address the role of sex between men in the epidemics. HIV outbreaks are being found in Afghanistan and Pakistan, particularly among injecting drug users."

It added that high levels of use of non-sterile injecting equipment and other risk behaviours showed considerable scope for further growth of the epidemic in those two countries.

The report estimated that around 8.6 million people were living with HIV in Asian countries in 2006, including around 960,000 people who became newly infected in the past year.

In China, new infections were on the rise among injecting drug users, although half the new infections in China during 2005 occurred during unprotected sex. The virus was spreading gradually from at-risk populations into the general population and there was a rise in the number of infections among women, the report said.

Vietnam’s epidemic continued to increase, with HIV having been detected in all 64 provinces and all cities. The number of people living with HIV has doubled since 2000, to around 260,000, according to government figures.

The use of non-sterile injecting equipment pushed infection rates among injecting drug users from 9% in 1996 to more than 30% in 2003. Large proportions of male injecting drug users engage in unprotected sex, including paid sex (40% in the northern province of Bac Ninh for example), UNAIDS said.

The need for HIV prevention work among migrant populations in Vietnam and China was also highlighted.

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