Singapore Conference Examines HIV/AIDS Prevention In Asia
Read about how stigma may be contributing to a growing AIDS crisis in Asia.
The following appears with permission from the UN Wire, Copyright, National Journal Group, March 15, 2002. For further information click here
On the last day of the International Congress on Infectious Diseases in Singapore, experts said that many people in Asia are hesitant to be screened for HIV because of fears about the stigma attached to the virus and the high costs of treatment associated with AIDS. "Because of a fear of losing their jobs or getting shunned by family and friends, people don't go for HIV testing," said Dr. Nicholas Paton, one of three doctors who addressed the issue.
Paton and other doctors from Malaysia and Thailand cited World Health Organization statistics indicating that China, India and Indonesia are on the verge of an HIV/AIDS epidemic, the Singapore Straits Times reported. The experts also said that sexual transmission of HIV is on the rise in China, the Philippines and Japan. In Malaysia, Indonesia, India and Vietnam, the disease is more commonly transmitted via intravenous drug use (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, March 15). WHO statistics show Asia ranking second behind sub-Saharan Africa for number of infections, with more than 6 million people in Asia infected with HIV.
Some experts said at the congress yesterday that there is no room for complacency in regards to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Asia. "Just because the numbers are not as big as in Africa, it doesn't mean we can be complacent," said Christopher Lee, head of the infectious diseases unit at Kuala Lumpur Hospital in Malaysia, on the sidelines of the conference. "We should just say we are grateful we have more time to intervene. But if we keep on delaying that intervention, one day it will be like them (sub-Saharan Africa)" (Bernice Han, AFP/Philippine Daily Inquirer, March 14).
A U.S. expert on HIV/AIDS, Harold Jaffe, said Wednesday on the sidelines of the Singapore meeting that Asian health authorities need to use a balanced approach -- introducing prevention programs and anti-retroviral drugs treatment -- to combat the epidemic or risk losing all the initial gains made against the disease. "I think the important thing is we need both," he said. "We aren't really going to get anywhere if we take our preventionary resources and use them for treatment. We have to fund both, otherwise we won't have a viable program" (Bernice Han, AFP, March 13).