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ASEAN countries address HIV/AIDS issues
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Officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met in Laos, discussing ways to combat the rising incidence of HIV/AIDS in the region, including facilitating greater involvement and empowerment of people living with HIV, Lao newspaper Vientiane Times reported Thursday.

At a meeting held on Wednesday, Lao Deputy Minister of Public Health Bounkouang Phichit said that the increasing prevalence of HIV/AIDS had placed a substantial burden on regional health care systems and national budgets, especially in low-income countries.

According to Laos' National Committee for the Control of AIDS, there were 2,630 recorded cases of sexually transmitted diseases in the country between 1990 and 2007, including 1,600 HIV infections. More than 800 people are known to have died of AIDS in Laos.

UN Resident Coordinator in Laos Sonam Yangchen Rana said that the meeting would contribute to addressing the needs and concerns of people living with HIV and strengthen their participation in the planning and implementation of ASEAN's efforts to combat HIV/ AIDS.

She said over the past few years, the region had witnessed a growing number of networks of people living with HIV. The networks provide a space for people to gather and share their concerns, offer services to their peers and families and give a collective platform for those living with HIV to voice their feelings.

The United Nations Joint Program on HIV/AIDS and the World Health Organization estimate 4.9 million people were living with HIV in Asia in 2007. The figure included 440,000 people who became infected with the disease in the year.

The ASEAN consists of Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei and Vietnam.

(Xinhua News Agency May 9, 2008)

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