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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
AIDS Threat Worse than Terror, Canberra Warned
Amanda Hodge
October 22, 2003
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 decade.

"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.