World is losing race against AIDS ... BUT:

Reply Wed 7 Jul, 2004 01:08 am
Thailand Becomes Model in Fight Against HIV/AIDS in Asia
06 Jul 2004

Thailand's "aggressive steps" to lower HIV prevalence have become a "model" for fighting the disease in Asia, an achievement that will be highlighted during the XV International AIDS Conference that will be held July 11-16 in Bangkok, Thailand, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Thailand has reduced HIV prevalence rates through national initiatives that promote condom use and treatment programs that offer pregnant women access to drugs that prevent mother-to-child transmission. Approximately one million HIV-positive people live in Thailand -- which was one of the first "hard hit" countries to recognize and address HIV/AIDS in the early 1990s -- out of 62 million people in the country.

Sex Workers, Vertical Transmission

To curb the spread of HIV, the Thai government adopted a policy aimed at commercial sex workers that called for 100% condom use in brothels, according to the Journal. The policy helped to reduce HIV prevalence among "brothel-based" commercial sex workers from 30% in 1996 to 10% currently, according to Anupong Chitwarakorn, a senior preventive medicine expert in the Thai Ministry of Public Health (Chase, Wall Street Journal, 7/6).

The government also has "drastically" reduced mother-to-child HIV transmission primarily through a national program launched in 2000, the Associated Press reports. The program offers HIV testing for all pregnant women, antiretroviral drug treatment for HIV-positive pregnant women and their infants and education about the risks of HIV transmission through breastfeeding for women who have recently given birth.

Without intervention programs or access to drugs, the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV is approximately 25% to 40%, with more than 33% of transmission attributed to breastfeeding, according to the Associated Press (Joshi, Associated Press, 7/4).

'Massive Relapse'?

Despite the success of Thailand's initiatives in lowering HIV prevalence rates, experts warn that a "massive relapse" could occur if the country does not "recommit itself to fighting the pandemic head on," according to AFP/Yahoo! News.

Adult HIV prevalence has dropped to its lowest level from 2.3% in 1995 -- the "height of the crisis" -- to 1.54% in 2004, and new HIV cases have fallen to 19,000 in 2003 compared with 143,000 in 1991, AFP/Yahoo! News reports.

However, "[g]eneral complacency has set in," Sen. Mechai Viravaidya, co-chair of the Community Program Committee for the AIDS Conference, said, adding, "It reflects very clearly that the effort we have put into public education has weakened."

Lucita Lazo, East and Southeast Asian program director for the U.N. Development Fund for Women, said, "Thailand has been quite successful in the early stages in licking the problem, but I think success can be your own enemy," adding, "It's time to ring the alarm signals again and ... take more action, particularly promoting the use of condoms" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 7/4).
source: Medical News Today

Thailand Tackles Intolerance Ahead of AIDS Meeting
By Nopporn Wong-Anan

BANGKOK (Reuters) Jul 06 - Thailand, the venue for a global AIDS summit starting on Sunday, is seeing its efforts to be a good host undermined by incidents of discrimination against people living with the disease, officials said on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra hit the airwaves this week with round-the-clock television and radio spots urging Thais to welcome roughly 16,000 delegates, many of them living with HIV/AIDS, to the week-long meeting in Bangkok.

"I'd like to ask all Thais to warmly welcome all conference participants with good hospitality and friendship to give them confidence," Thaksin said in one radio spot.

But reports of discrimination against an infected government employee, coming weeks after a Bangkok hotel segregated HIV-positive guests, underscore the need to stamp out ignorance and fear over the disease, a conference official said on Tuesday.

"We have tried very hard to overcome these problems, but some people still have the idea of doing things like this, which is not good at all," said Dr. Vallop Thaineua, a senior Health Ministry official who is co-chairing the July 11-16 conference.

In a report on Monday, the Nation newspaper quoted a unnamed female clerk as saying she was told not to report to work at Government House for five years, although she still collected her pay, after revealing that she was HIV positive.

"I felt ashamed living on taxpayers' money without working in return," said the 34-year-old woman, who worked for a section of the Prime Minister's Office.

The woman said she was forced to sign a resignation letter when she demanded to be allowed to return to work. It was not clear if she was still employed.


Thaksin was travelling outside the country on Tuesday. Officials in his office have not commented on the report, which has worried some officials in the health ministry.

"We don't know if it is true, but we will submit a letter to the Prime Minister's Office asking them not to discriminate against HIV-infected officials and to treat them like normal people," Charal Trinwuthipong, head of the Department of Disease Control, told Reuters.

Charal's office has warned Bangkok hotels not to mistreat conference delegates after a well-publicised incident last month in which one hotel kept infected guests away from other patrons.

The Prince Palace hotel said some of its staff "might have acted inappropriately because of their ignorance, which might have hurt the patients' feelings".

"We've told the hotels not to segregate HIV/AIDS people on different floors from other people. So far, we've heard of no new complaints," Charal said.

Organisers hope the Bangkok meeting will focus attention on fighting social and cultural stigmas blamed for fuelling the spread of the disease, especially in Asia and Africa.
source: REUTERS via MedScape
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Walter Hinteler
Reply Wed 7 Jul, 2004 10:08 am
Just released:

UNAIDS 2004 Report on the global AIDS epidemic
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