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HIV in Asia

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This is the VOA SpecialEnglish Development Report.

Health ministers from almost all Asian and Pacific countries havepromised to provide more resources to fight AIDS and H-I-V, thevirus that causes the disease. They made the announcement last monthat an international conference on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific.Health officials, activists, and doctors from the area met inMelbourne, Australia.

Currently, an estimated seven-and-one-half million people areinfected with H-I-V in Asia and the Pacific. However, aninternational group that studies AIDS in Asia says this is changing.The group says AIDS and H-I-V rates in Asia are increasing fasterthan anywhere else in the world.

The group reports that only three countries have nationalinfection rates of more than one percent. They are Burma, Thailandand Cambodia. However, other countries have extremely high rates ofinfection among some population groups and it some areas. Thesecountries include India, China and Indonesia.

Karen Stanecki heads the group that is studying AIDS in Asia. Shesays that it is only a question of time before infection rates inAsia increase. Mizz Stanecki says Africa is an example. She saysthere was little evidence of H-I-V infections in southern Africa inthe early Nineteen-Nineties. Today, however, some African countrieshave infection rates of ten to fifteen percent of their populations.

p>Bernard Schwartlander works for the United Nations AIDS Program.Doctor Schwartlander says some groups in Asia are already at highrisk of becoming infected. They include people who sell sex formoney, men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs. Therate of H-I-V infections has increased among these groups incountries including China, Vietnam and Nepal.

Doctor Schwartlander says the spread of H-I-V probably will notremain limited only to these groups. He says evidence from othercountries shows that H-I-V has spread from high-risk groups to othermembers of the population. Doctor Schwartlander says Asiangovernments must take immediate action to keep H-I-V rates low.Experts say only Thailand and Cambodia have effective H-I-Vprevention programs.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by JillMoss.

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