Intl AIDS: Asian Conference Ongoing Now; Caribbean Update
7th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific
Kobe, Japan July 1-5, 2005
The main theme of this Congress in Kobe is "Bridging Science and Community". Even though science has made great strides in virological and pathophysiological understanding of HIV infection and ARV development, it is essential that a bridge is built to all affected communities so that they have access to and can participate in the development of prevention, treatment and care strategies. Without the active ownership of the communities at a local level, an effective and decentralized response to HIV/AIDS will not be possible.
Major issues still remain to be addressed even with the advent of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) such as accessibility and affordability of HAART, and improvement of quality of life. Discrimination and prejudice against people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT), drug users and sex workers still prevail, and knowledge / information for prevention of transmitting or acquiring HIV is more necessary than ever.
The 7th ICAAP deals with diverse topics and they will be divided into five tracks, namely;
Track A Basic and Clinical Sciences
Track B Treatment, Care and Support
Track C Prevention and Epidemiology
Track D Culture, Gender and Sexual Issues
Track E Political, Economic and Social Contexts
Asia Pacific region facing unique AIDS challenge
Australian Broadcasting Company Radio
As many as 12 million people in the Asia-Pacific region could become infected with HIV over the next five years according to experts.
The warning comes at a meeting in the western Japanese city of Kobe of 3,000 health care experts and HIV/AIDS activists from around 60 countries.
"The risk of HIV spreading throughout the region is higher than ever, despite some progress in several countries," said Peter Piot from UNAIDS.
He stressed that only "scaled up responses" by governments can change the trend.
Worldwide, about 40 million people are infected with HIV, the virus which causes AIDS, of whom about 8.2 million, or roughly 20 percent, live in Asia.
Of the 8.2 million, 1.2 million were infected in 2004 alone.
The Seventh International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, which runs until Tuesday, will focus on a wide range of issues, including the latest treatment and prevention measures.
The regional fight against HIV has been made difficult due to public stigma against the disease and lack of understanding among policymakers, Piot said.
Countries such as Thailand and Cambodia have successfully implemented prevention programmes to push down the level of new HIV infections, while others, such as Indonesia and China, have seen soaring rates of infection.
Report: Prevention Can Reduce AIDS Costs
By MARGIE MASON
The Associated Press
07/04/05 04:37 EDT
KOBE, Japan (AP) - Developing countries in the Asia-Pacific risk sinking deeper into poverty if they fail to adequately confront the rising threat of HIV infection with increased funding for prevention and treatment, officials said Monday.
The region has the second-highest number of people living with the virus, about 8.2 million, after sub-Saharan Africa. And the epidemic is growing fast. The Asia-Pacific logged more than 1 million new infections last year.
If the region continues on the same path, it will cost an estimated $18.7 billion by 2010. Those costs will drive developing countries deeper into poverty, officials said at the Seventh International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific.
But annual HIV/AIDS costs could be reduced by nearly $4 billion over that time if prevention and care is widely available, according to a report by UNAIDS and the Asian Development Bank.
J.V.R. Prasada Rao, regional director of the UNAIDS support team for Asia and the Pacific, said when governments are made aware about poverty numbers ``then it rings a bell.'' AIDS advocates should use the economics ``as a political instrument,'' he said.
Currently, the bulk of HIV/AIDS costs in the region are being absorbed by the private sector, prompting the United Nations to call on governments to do more to help fight the disease within their borders.
Rao has said that there is enough money in Asia to help fund programs to curb the epidemic, given that the estimated $5 billion needed by 2007 makes up only 4.4. percent of the region's present health spending, according to the joint report.
Future costs can also be lowered if countries step-up prevention and treatment efforts now to keep more people from becoming infected and to keep those already living with the disease from dying, said Dr. Jim Yong Kim, director of the World Health Organization's department of HIV/AIDS.
``Expanding treatment and prevention together can dramatically reduce the resource needs for treatment over the long term,'' he said. ``So it's a two-way street. Treatment makes prevention more effective, while prevention makes treatment more affordable.''
AIDS killed about 544,000 people last year in the region, leaving an increasing number of orphans and other family members to fend for themselves. By making prevention and treatment regular fixtures in the Asia-Pacific, UNAIDS estimates the death rate could be reduced by 40 percent over the next five years.
Similarly, doctors at the conference urged countries to spend more on treating and diagnosing tuberculosis, a major secondary infection and cause of death among HIV infected people. They are 50 times more likely to catch TB than the general population, and worldwide one-third of HIV-positive people, or 14 million, are co-infected with TB.
``TB is one of the leading causes of death among HIV-positive people, especially in the developing world,'' said Javid Syed from New York-based Treatment Action Group. Yet governments have typically looked at TB as a low-tech disease of the past, and cut spending.
Ignoring the problem also proved costly in the United States. A delay in addressing the HIV/TB threat in New York cost the city $1 billion as hard to treat, multi-drug resistant strains of TB infected HIV positive people, he said.
Tuberculosis is caused by a bacteria that is spread, like the common cold, through the air and normally enters the body through lungs. When it infects a person with HIV, TB progresses more rapidly to symptoms like coughing up blood, fever and weight loss that can ultimately be fatal.
Updated Information On The HIV Epidemic in The Caribbean
University of California, San Francisco - HIV Insite News Resource.
(Updated, June 2005).The Caribbean has a well-established and rapidly spreading HIV epidemic. At the end of 2003, 270,00 to 760,000 adults and children in the region were living with HIV/AIDS, and the region's HIV prevalence rate was estimated to be between 1.4% and 4.1%. In 2003 alone, there were between 26,000 and 140,000 new HIV infections and from 23,000 to 59,000 AIDS-related deaths. Among young people 15-24 years of age, 2.9% of women and 1.2% of men were living with HIV by the end of 2003. The Caribbean epidemic is predominantly heterosexual, and is concentrated among sex workers in many places, but the virus is also spreading in the general population. Three countries have national HIV prevalence levels of at least 3%: the Bahamas, Haiti, and Trinidad and Tobago. HIV prevalence in Barbados is at 1.5%, and Cuba's prevalence is well below 1%. The worst-affected country is Haiti, where national prevalence is around 5.6%. However, HIV spread is uneven: sentinel surveillance reveals prevalence ranging from 13% in the north-west of the country to 2-3% in the south. Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, which also has a serious HIV epidemic. However, previously high prevalence has declined in the Dominican Republic, due to effective prevention efforts that encouraged people to reduce the number of sexual partners and increase condom use. According to a national survey, over 50% of males aged 15-29 used a condom with a non-cohabiting partner in 2002. In the capital, Santo Domingo, prevalence among pregnant women declined from around 3% in 1995 to below 1% at the end of 2003. But high levels are still reported elsewhere, and range from under 1% to nearly 5%. In 2000, HIV prevalence among female sex workers ranged from 4.5% in the eastern province tourist center of La Romana to 12.4% in the southern province of Bani. In addition, little is known about HIV patterns among men who have sex with men--a potentially important facet of the country's epidemic.