Aids in Asia 'could soon be as bad as in Africa'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The World Bank has warned that unless serious measures are taken, the Aids and HIV epidemic in south Asia could soon become as bad as in Africa. In Nepal, the infection rate is already 18 per cent among prostitutes, and 68 per cent among intravenous drug users, Praful Patel, the World Bank's vice-president for south Asia, said.

The World Bank has warned that unless serious measures are taken, the Aids and HIV epidemic in south Asia could soon become as bad as in Africa. In Nepal, the infection rate is already 18 per cent among prostitutes, and 68 per cent among intravenous drug users, Praful Patel, the World Bank's vice-president for south Asia, said.

India will soon have the world's largest number of people with HIV and Aids, Mr Patel has warned. Although the infection rate in India is low - only 0.8 per cent - India's population of 1.2 billion translates that into a huge number of people.

The Bank also warns that the epidemic is spiralling out of control in Russia. Europe and Central Asia are now seeing the fastest growth rate of HIV infections in the world, largely because of the rate in Russia and the former Soviet Union.

An international conference on HIV and Aids is to open on 11 July in Bangkok. Thailand is regarded as one of the countries that has been most successful in arresting the spread of Aids. In 1992, 31 per cent of sex workers in Thailand were HIV positive, but the then government launched a major prevention programme, including regular testing of prostitutes.

But Mr Patel said: "The locus of the epidemic is shifting from Africa to Asia." Mr Patel, an Indian born in Uganda, worked for the World Bank in Africa, where the Aids epidemic has grown to catastrophic proportions, and said he sees the signs of history repeating itself in Asia, with governments not taking the risk seriously enough.

The Bank is warning governments of the potential economic impact of HIV and Aids. It says its projections show that if the epidemic is not slowed in Russia by 2010, Aids and HIV could cause a decrease in the country's GDP of 2 to 4 per cent.

Comments