Poverty and conflict in South Asia breeding ground for AIDS: Experts

TORONTO, Canada, Aug 15, 2006 (AFP) – South Asia’s AIDS epidemic could smash through vulnerable populations unless India and its neighbours take the battle into high-risk areas, including the sex industry, the World Bank warned Monday. The report, issued at the world’s biggest-ever AIDS meeting, painted a picture of an HIV time bomb that ticked in South Asia — but also said there was hope of defusing it with fast, pinpointed action.

The study tracked the spread of the AIDS virus through India — where 60 percent of all people living with AIDS in Asia live — and seven other South Asian nations, laying out an anti-HIV battle plan.

“South Asia’s HIV epidemic is severe, but further spread is preventable,” said the report, entitled “AIDS in South Asia.”

To stop the spread of the disease, South Asian nations must roll out prevention programmes for sex workers and their clients and intravenous drugs users and their sexual partners, as well as for gays and bisexuals, the report said.

A second string of the strategy must tackle the “social and economic drivers” of the epidemic, including poverty and sex trafficking of women, the report said.

Without prompt action, prospects for checking the spread of AIDS in India may