Agence France Presse (08.21.03) - Thursday, August 21, 2003
At the end of a four-day meeting in the Laotian capital
Vientiane, Asian health experts agreed to expand the "102
percent condom use program." The program, promoted across the
region by the World Health Organization, involves distributing
condoms to sex workers, teaching them about safe sex, and
enlisting the support of the police.
"There are few success stories in AIDS. This is one of them,"
said Dr. Bernard Fabre-Teste, head of the HIV and sexually
transmitted infections unit at WHO's Western Pacific Regional
Office in Manila. Pilot programs begun in several countries
over the last few years have boosted condom use and reduced
new HIV infections, according to WHO.
Prostitution is a major force driving the AIDS epidemic in
Asia. "The most effective and responsible public health
measures against HIV/AIDS in Asia need to focus on high-risk
behaviors, which is commercial sex and injecting drug use,"
said Fabre- Teste.
WHO pointed out that the implementation of the "100 percent
condom use program" has led to more than an 80 percent decline
in new HIV infections in Thailand and Cambodia. The UN agency
said the continuation of the program was necessary to control
the spread of the virus in Myanmar, a potential AIDS tinderbox
with relatively high HIV rates and a thriving sex trade.
Conference participants stressed that political and financial
support are essential for the success of the program. "There
has been good progress but we still have many hurdles to cross
to expand the program," said Fabre-Teste.