Action needed to reverse a growing HIV epidemic in Asia

Nationwide programs to increase condom use in commercial sex, help drug injectors to use clean needles and cut risky sex between men are needed to reverse a growing HIV epidemic in Asia, according to leading scientists.

In a report released ahead of the 15th International AIDS conference on Sunday, the Monitoring the AIDS Pandemic (MAP) Network said that HIV was spreading rapidly in several Asian countries.

In parts of China, Indonesia and Vietnam, a huge leap in HIV infection rates among drug injectors is now sparking off a rise in HIV in the sex industry. But there are still many opportunities for effective HIV prevention throughout Asia, according to MAP, a network of epidemiologists and public health specialists who review data and provide independent analysis of the global HIV epidemic.

The report, “AIDS in Asia: Face the Facts”, says that HIV in Asia remains concentrated among those with behaviors that carry a high risk of infection - drug injection, the buying and selling of sex, and sex between men. Countries such as Cambodia and Thailand have managed to reverse the course of their epidemics by specifically targeting sex workers and their clients.

“Asian nations face a choice. They can act now or pay later,” said Dr Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS and member of MAP. “As this report clearly shows, those countries that have chosen to tackle high-risk behavior openly are beating HIV. Now it is up to others to follow their lead.”

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