The number of people living with HIV worldwide has doubled in a decade to top 40 million for the first time. 3.1 million people will die from HIV/AIDS this year and over half a million of them will be children. Over 1 in 100 of pregnant women across Asia are HIV positive.
- The sharpest increase in infection rates were in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, rising 25% up to 1.6 million.
- But, sub-Saharan Africa remains the worst-hit region by quite some distance, with the Caribbean second in league.
- In Asia, 8.27 million people are HIV positive and the disease is spreading at a faster rate than anywhere else. Most transmissions are via drug use and sex workers.
- Almost half of Indian sex workers believed they could tell if a person had HIV by looking at them.
- 1 in 5 of Karachi prostitutes was unable to recognise a condom.
But there was some hope.
- The prevalence of HIV amongst Kolkata’s sex workers has fallen to below 4% (from 11% in 2001) due to hugely increased condom-use in Sonagachi and infection rates seem to have dropped in parts of Burkina Faso, Haiti, Kenya and Zimbabwe.
India is repeatedly said to be the site of the next AIDS explosion. Politicians and the media are slowly lumbering into action. But India’s stumbling block remains homosexuality. Whilst heterosexual intercourse is relatively less of a taboo in India, gay sex is still broadly looked down upon. The UN report noted that very little was known about the spread of HIV amongst gay people in India.
6% of male slum-residents in Chennai had had sex with another man and over half of them were married. Out of these 6%, 7% were HIV positive.
Government initiatives have mostly concentrated on high-risk groups, like lorry drivers (who frequent prostitutes regularly) and sex workers, so public perception is that HIV is confined to these groups. AIDS activists insist the government is still not doing enough and that ignorance remains rife, especially with high rates of illiteracy.
The BBC has more in this moving article.
Pakistan does not suffer from as high a prevalence as India, but the government and NGOs have done little to highlight the problem. The first case was reported in 1987, but Dr Asif Mirza from the Family Planning Association of Pakistan says:
We are not actually diagnosing people. The people are not
coming to the surface…Even after 17, 18 years we still talk about stigma and discrimination. And the people who are already diagnosed, we don’t look after them properly. We don’t provide them proper information. We don’t test their families.”
Like in most Muslim countries, HIV/AIDS is very much a taboo subject.
China’s ground zero for AIDS is the Golden Triangle, the region neighbouring Myanmar where heroin crosses the border freely. With the thriving drugs trade, the sex industry has also flourished, with numerous red light districts in the region and across China.
The Chinese government has recently increased the budget allocation to its AIDS project massively, rolling out needle exchange programmes and education campaigns in many urban areas, but those in the Golden Triangle and most of rural China are still completely ignorant to how HIV is transmitted or even what it is.
More on the BBC Aids debate mini-site
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Filed in: Culture,South Asia,The World