MANILA, Nov. 28 (Xinhua) -- The large number of men
in Asia who seek prostitution has become an important medium for the spread of
HIV/AIDS in the Asia Pacific region, UN health officials warned here Friday.
Girls look at candles during an AIDS International Candlelight Memorial in Belgrade May 18, 2008. The large number of men in Asia who seek prostitution has become an important medium for the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Asia Pacific region, UN health officials warned Friday.
At the launching ceremony of a on-line database on
HIV/AIDS on Friday, Anupama Rao Singh, head of UNICEF East Asia-Pacific Regional
office said there are estimated 75 million Asian men "regularly" buying sex from
about 10 million Asian females who sell it, according to studies of the
Commission of AIDS in Asia.
"We cannot overlook the threat of HIV's continued
transmission through the sex trade," Singh said. "Because the implications on
HIV trend among women and children are grave."
She said that throughout Asia, an alarmingly large
number of wives were found infected by their husbands or sex partners who
engaged in unprotected sex trade. And the virus can still be passed on to the
next generation when the wives become pregnant.
Experts of the United Nations Children's Fund
(UNICEF), the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), World Health
Organization (WHO), and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) gathered Friday in the
Philippine capital of Manila to unveil the on-line database that will facilitate
researchers, policy-makers and civil groups who would need to do AIDS/HIV
research in the region.
The site (www.aidsdatahub.org) contains consistently
updated information on core HIV/AIDS indicators and national response in 24
countries and regions in east, southeast, and south Asia.
At the ceremony, Amala Reddy, regional program
advisor of UNAIDS Asia and the Pacific, warned that because the "relatively
large size" of men who buy sex, they have become a "powerful factor" in the
spread of HIV/AIDS in the region.
She said that in Asia, about 50 million women who
have no other behavior other than being the wives of men who are on this trend
(buying sex) unfortunately risk being contracted with HIV/AIDS.
According to data revealed by UNICEF, Asian women,
categorized as low-risk group, now represent less than 25 percent of all HIV
infections but the proportion could have shoot up to 30 percent by2015, mostly
infected through their husbands and sex partners.
Quoting UNAIDS report, Reddy said currently there are
5 million people in Asia living with HIV/AIDS with around 400,000 people being
newly infected every year.
She said the number is likely to soar to 500,000 by
2010 when the accumulated number of HIV infection cases in Asia rise up to 10
Reddy said, however, UNAIDS experts don't expect the
infection percentage of population in Asia will be as high as the case of
Africa, for most infection in Asia are concentrated in high risk groups such as
sex workers, intravenous drug users, men who have sex with men.
In Asia, there are around 20 million intravenous drug
users and men who had sex with men, according to the report of Commission of
AIDS in Asia, published earlier this year.
Massimo Ghidinelli, WHO regional advisor on HIV/AIDS,
said besides men who buy sex, men who have sex with men (MSM) without using
condom is another high-risk group that needs particular attention in the region.
He said WHO even could not get a "fully accurate
picture" on the exact magnitude of the contribution of MSM to AIDS spread
because of the sensitivity of the issue and neglects of the governments.
"It is a new phenomenon and we have insufficient
understandings and studies." Ghidinelli said. "The problem may be much greater
than what we have believed."
But UN health officials said the use of condom has
been proved an effective way to stem the virus spread.
"There should be mass awareness campaigns, aggressive
promotion of condom usage. The experience in Thailand and Cambodia proves it
works," Reddy said.
"We know the ways. It is only that political leaders
have to have the political will to do the right things," she added.