More than 1.1 million people were infected with HIV, the virus causing the fatal disease AIDS, in Asia last year alone, while 38 million living with the virus worldwide, a UN report said on Tuesday.
Five million new cases were diagnosed last year alone in the world -- the largest number in any one year since the epidemic began, according to the 2004 Report on the Global AIDS published by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in advance of the International AIDS Conference, to be held in Bangkok later this month.
"Despite increased funding, political commitment and progress in expanding access to HIV treatment over the past two years, the AIDS epidemic continues to outpace the global response," Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS, told a news conference in London.
Efforts needed to be focused in Asia to prevent "a full blown Aids catastrophe", he said.
According to the report, 1.1 million people in Asia became infected with HIV last year alone -- more than any previous year.
With 60 percent of the world's population, Asia's fast-growing epidemic has global implications, the report said.
There is no time to misread the signals, with Asia facing life and death choices in preventing a full-blown AIDS catastrophe in the region, Piot said.
Answering questions about Chinese efforts against AIDS, Piot told Xinhua, "Chinese central government is highly committed to fight AIDS in the country. The prime minister, Wen Jiabao's visit to AIDS patients last year is a symbol of it. And it is encouraging that the government provide free treatment for the poor."
"But the public awareness about AIDS need to be raised in China. The ordinary should know AIDS is not far from them and the disease does not emerge in foreign countries only," Piot said.
UNAIDS warned that the stabilization in HIV rates is actually due to a rise in deaths from Aids in sub-Sahara area where is the most highly infected region in the world. Last year, three million people died from Aids across the world.
The report said women and young people are disproportionately affected by HIV. There are now 13 women infected for every 10 men and women now make up 50 percent of those living with HIV across the world.
UNAIDS also warned the HIV epidemic was continuing to grow in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where 1.3 million people were living with HIV. Russia, which had over 3 million injecting drug users, was one of the worst affected countries.
UNAIDS is calling for the global funding allocated to the fight against HIV to grow from US$5 billion in 2003 to US$20 billion by 2007.
(Xinhua News Agency July 7, 2004)