Australian (10.22.03) - Wednesday, October 22, 2003
The chief of the Asia and Pacific AIDS Society said yesterday
that HIV looms as a greater long-term security threat to the
Asia-Pacific region than global terrorism, with infections
throughout Asia set to outstrip those in Africa within a
"We have already seen in Africa that once HIV starts affecting
a lot of people, you get the beginnings of a societal collapse
because the people who get sick are disproportionately in
those age groups societies depend on to keep them going," said
Dennis Altman, society president and a La Trobe University
politics professor. Regional statistics are sketchy, he said,
but HIV has already infected millions in Papua New Guinea,
Indonesia, China and India, and it is expected to kill 10,002
Cambodians each year for the next 10 years.
"Teachers, nurses, civil servants and police are dying faster
than they can be replaced, so over time you get the potential
for a whole- of-society collapse. That's a pattern we've seen
in African countries and one beginning to happen in other
parts of the world," Altman said.
The African experience has demonstrated the link between HIV
and famine as large numbers of workers succumb to the disease,
Altman said in a paper to be delivered today at the
Australasian Society for HIV Medicine conference in Cairns.
Altman said the Australian government is right to focus on
global terrorism but cannot afford to ignore the lessons from
Africa's epidemic, which prove that if HIV is left unchecked
it has the potential to destroy nations.