Asian nations urged to battle "wildfire" spread of AIDS
(AFP) - An international AIDS expert on Friday urged Asian nations to mount a battle against the disease, saying HIV infections could not be allowed to spread like wildfire.
David Ho, director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Centre in New York, said India already had four to eight million cases of HIV infection and the great concern now was China.
"Initially, HIV was restricted to Yunnan province due to its close contact at the Myanmar border, but the disease is now found diffusely throughout the country..." Bernama news agency quoted him as saying in a lecture here.
Ho said Southeast Asian countries, especially Thailand, also had a high number of infections.
He said a US-developed drug combination could consistently control HIV growth so that the virus was no longer detectable in the blood. Treatment strategies employing a combination of 14 drugs had been developed and licensed.
"Although it's not a cure, these therapies can stop the growth of the virus, halt the destruction of the immune system and improve the clinical status of the treated patients."
As a result the AIDS mortality rate in the US had fallen for the first time since the beginning of the epidemic.
Sadly the new therapies were not available in developing countries where the epidemic was most devastating, he added. Last month Malaysia's Health Minister Chua Jui Meng accused multinational pharmaceutical firms of putting profits before lives by banning developing countries from producing their anti-AIDS drugs.
Chua called for a system of compulsory licensing and "parallel importing" to be introduced in poorer countries.
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)