1 Dec 2006

WHO urges leaders in Western Pacific to step up efforts to combat AIDS

3:45 pm on 1 December 2006

The World Health Organisation has urged political leaders in the Western Pacific region to step up efforts to stop the spread of the AIDS virus, saying the number of infections continues to grow.

The WHO estimates that in 2006, 8.6 million people in Asia were living with HIV, nearly 1 million of whom were infected in the past year.

Its Western Pacific zone covers 37 states, from China in the west to Fiji and Vanuatu to the east.

The WHO regional director for Western Pacific, Shigeru Omi, says half of the new infections in 2006 occurred through unprotected sex, pointing to Vietnam and Papua New Guinea as potential hotspots.

The HIV prevalence rates among adults in PNG has also increased dramatically since 2003.

Mr Omi says the WHO is pushing for fresh strategies to prevent HIV transmission, including efforts to discourage sharing of drug paraphernalia, reduce stigmatisation and promote voluntary counseling and testing.

And he says WHO is also calling for better marketing of condom use in the region.