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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
ASIA-PACIFIC: UN Calls for Acceleration of HIV Treatment in Asia-Pacific Nations
Daniel Schearf
February 7, 2012
Voice of America News (02.06.12) - Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Monday's opening of a three-day UN Economic and Social Commission for the Asia Pacific (UNESCAP) meeting in Bangkok began with praise for the region's impressive gains in tackling HIV/AIDS in recent years.

Asia-Pacific has about 15 percent of the world's total HIV/AIDS caseload, with roughly 6 million people infected. Officials and activists from 34 countries in the region heard that new HIV infections are down 20 percent since 2001. Noeleen Heyzer, executive secretary of UNESCAP, said she expects the region will meet its goal of halting and reversing the virus' spread by 2015.

"Countries such as Cambodia, India, Myanmar, and Thailand have successfully reduced their HIV infection rates with intensive, wide-reaching preventive programs, particularly among people who buy and sell sex," said Heyzer. But, "There are still almost two new infections for every person who starts treatment. These new infections remain concentrated among key populations of higher risk: People who buy and sell sex, people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, and transgender people." According to UN officials, 90 percent of Asia-Pacific countries still have HIV treatment barriers. These include laws that criminalize injection drug users and sex workers, making it difficult for such marginalized groups to seek treatment.

Furthermore, in light of declining HIV/AIDS contributions from international donors, Asia-Pacific countries must prioritize paying for much of their own disease-related programming, said Heyzer. She cited China, Malaysia, Pakistan, Samoa, and Thailand for leading the way in supporting HIV/AIDS programs internally.