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Chinese Health Official Warns of Spread of AIDS in Asia-Pacific Region

The Asia-Pacific region should be on the alert for an increase in HIV/AIDs and should treat any cases immediately, or HIV infection rate in the region could surpass that of Africa before 2010.

The alert came from the Asia-Pacific Bi-Regional Workshop on the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB) and Malaria (GFATM), which opened in Beijing Thursday.

Chinese Vice Health Minister Wang Longde said that in recent years the Asia-Pacific region has become the area with the fastest growing HIV infection rate. At the end of 2001, of the 40 million surviving HIV infected people worldwide, 7.1 million were from the Asia and Pacific region.

According to a professional analysis, 22 million people have died from HIV/AIDS over the past two decades, with the proportion from the Asia-Pacific region increasing more rapidly than that of Africa in recent years.

TB is also spreading rapidly in this region. With the exception of Africa, the region has the highest number of people with TB in the world. Among the 23 countries with high rates of TB, 11 are in the Asia and Pacific region. Each year, the region has 500 TB cases, 74.5 percent of the number from all 23 countries.

Southeast Asia is one of the two areas in the world most seriously affected by Malaria -- the other is Africa.

Statistics show that in 2000, six million people died from HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria, accounting for 10 percent of the total deaths.

Speaking of this the Associate Director for Asia-Pacific and the Middle East of UNAIDS Werasit Sittitrai stressed that it is very urgent for the Asia Pacific region to fight against the diseases now, or the whole region will face an economic slowdown again following the 1997 crisis.

Asia-Pacific Region Works Together to Fight AIDS, TB, Malaria

With strong support from the World Health Organization (WHO), UNAIDS and the Transition Support Secretariat (TSS) of the Fund, the conference attracted more than 140 participants from 21 countries and regions in the Asia-Pacific area.

The GFATM was established with the support of the United Nation (UN), the first donation coming from the UN Secretary Kofi Annan who contributed US$10,000 on May 3, 2001.

The conference aims to provide information on the current standing of the GFATM, to help any countries in Asia Pacific region which might benefit from the fund to prepare draft proposals, and to develop ideas which will help countries to co-ordinate their activities when dealing with AIDS, TB and Malaria.

Wang Longde, vice health minister of China addressed the opening ceremony saying AIDS, TB and Malaria have not only influenced the health of the people, but also social and economic progress. He added that he hoped the global fund would promote the prevention and control of these diseases.

WHO Representative in China Dr.Janos Annus and the Associate Director for Asia-Pacific and the Middle East of UNAIDS Werasit Sittitrai both agreed the conference had made a very good beginning and would set the standard for future activities.

The GFATM was formally launched in January, and promised donations have reached US$1.7 billion, with government donations accounting for 94 percent.

(People’s Daily February 8, 2002)

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