U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is warning Asian governments to take urgent action on AIDS or face dire economic and social consequences. Mr. Annan spoke as the 15th International AIDS conference is getting underway.

Mr. Annan issued his call to action in Bangkok where the 15th International AIDS conference kicks off six days of meetings.

The United Nations says in 2003 the world saw the largest jump in AIDS infections in the 23 years since the illness was identified.

The U.N. secretary-general says Asian-Pacific nations especially must act urgently or face huge costs that will impact social and economic development.

AIDS activist and conference planner Sutjima Virivaidhya says this meeting aims to share information to get governments to better fight the disease, especially through education.

"We hope that they will listen to us and make some change, especially in the education department on HIV to the level of the young people," he said.

AIDS and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, affect 38 million people worldwide, almost 7.5 million in Asia.