UN highlights Asians’ risky behaviour with HIV/AIDS

GENEVA, Nov 21, 2006 (AFP) – Some 8.6 million Asians are infected with the HIV virus, UNAIDS said on Tuesday, warning the disease is thriving on risky behaviour in Southeast Asia and slowly taking hold in China, the world’s most populous nation.

An estimated 960,000 Asians were newly infected over the past year while about 630,000 people died of AIDS-related illness, the United Nations agency coordinating the global campaign against the disease said in its latest report.

HIV now affects 10 percent more Asians than in 2004, and new infections have increased by 12 percent.

“Even as we do quite well with prevention, it’s sobering to see how many people do not understand the personal risk they themselves carry. That’s a major challenge,” said Kevin De Cock, head of HIV at the World Health Organisation.

An estimated 235,000 people are receiving life-saving antiretroviral treatment in Asia, three times as many as in 2003, the “AIDS Update 2006” said.

However, that represents just 16 percent of those suffering from the immune deficiency disease in Asia. Only Thailand has managed to deliver treatment to more than half of those who need it, UNAIDS said.

The report said India accounted for two-thirds of the Asian total with 5.