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Asia-Pacific Commission on AIDS Aims to Reduce Impact of Disease


The chairman of a commission assessing the impact of AIDS on the Asia-Pacific region says governments need to do more to reduce the social and economic effects of the disease. The commission aims to provide fresh policy ideas to help countries in the region combat the virus.

The chairman of the Independent Asia-Pacific Commission on AIDS, Mr. Chakravarthy Rangarajan, says his group intends to look at ways of lessening the impact of AIDS on communities in the region.

"The mitigation of the impact of HIV/AIDS has not been addressed fully," he said. "While we really need to look at the issues connected with prevention, health care treatment, we also need to look at what can be done in order to mitigate the social, economic impact of HIV/AIDS."

The 10-member commission, which includes economists and health professionals, was launched in July in New Delhi to give regional governments advice on how to respond to the disease.

Mr. Rangarajan, an economist and former governor of the Reserve Bank of India, said Monday governments need to spend more on AIDS prevention and awareness.

"If you don't provide adequately for prevention, it becomes a problem for even health care and treatment in the future," he noted. "The burden with respect to care and treatment will increase enormously if you don't address the prevention problem."

He says that while financial resources for AIDS in the region have more than tripled over the past five years, the coverage of prevention and treatment services remains "dismally low."

Mr. Rangarajan also says that the relatively low prevalence of AIDS in the region can lead to a dangerous complacency.

"These are highly populated countries and even if the prevalence rate is very small, in absolute numbers of people involved [are] very large," he added. "Therefore, we need to address this issue squarely. We should not mince words."

Currently, around 8.3 million people live with HIV/AIDS in Asia-Pacific countries. More than one million of those became infected in the past year.

In China, an estimated 650,000 people have AIDS. In India around 5.7 million people are infected with HIV, the highest number for any country outside sub-Saharan Africa.

Mr. Rangarajan also urges governments in Asia to put in place long-term publicity campaigns to continue to educate their populations about the dangers of HIV.