UN spotlights scope of AIDS epidemic in Asia

UNITED NATIONS, March 26, 2008 (AFP) – Nearly 500,000 people will die of AIDS each year in Asia by 2020 unless prevention efforts are fully implemented, a UN report said Wednesday. The figure is up from 440,000 that currently die each year, according to the report commissioned by the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

The study also said the overall number of infected people would likely double to 10 million by 2020.

“Despite a declining trend of new HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) infections in a few countries, AIDS still accounts for more deaths annually among 15 to 44 year-olds than do tuberculosis and other diseases,” it noted.

“The costs of inaction are simply too high,” said the chairman of the Commission on AIDS in Asia, Dr Chakravarthi Rangarajan, as he presented the report to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

“Without concerted and evidence-based responses, Asia can expect an economic loss of two billion dollars by 2020.”

Ban appealed to Asian countries to implement the panel’s recommendations, including increased funding for prevention efforts.

“Asian countries can avert massive increases in infections and death, prevent economic