Threat of HIV Epidemic in Southeast Asia Rises

The World Health Organization expressed their concern over the rising threat of HIV in Southeast Asian countries, calling for a public health approach to combat the threat with "an effective response."

"Countries have demonstrated that implementing an effective response is feasible, both to halt and reserve epidemics and to provide services to those in need," addressed WHO Regional Director for Southeast Asia Samlee Plianbangchang the audience during the 61st meeting of WHO’s Regional Committee for Southesat Asia held in New Delhi, India.  The committee consists of 11 Asian countries deliberating on several key health issues related to HIV.

WHO Regional Health Advisor Ilsa Nelwan added that India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Myanmar collectively contribute to 98 percent of all maternal and newborn deaths in the region, while Southeast Asia contributes to one-third of the global maternal and newborn deaths.  In an estimated 37 million childbirths a year, nearly 1.3 million children die in the first month itself, along with over one million cases of stillbirths.

Meanwhile, an estimate 3.6 million people in the region are living with HIV.  This is the second most affected region in the world after Africa.  In India alone, about 2.5 million people are estimated to be affected by HIV.  HIV-associated deaths in 2007 is estimated around 300,000 cases, while there could be 260,000 new HIV infection at that same time frame.

Nelwan also emphasized that involving different NGOs and interest groups would bring positive change in the healh care center scenario in the region.

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