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Aids Monday, 25 October, 1999, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
Aids impact of Asia's economic crisis
Aids virus
Aids has devastated Africa and the numbers affected in Asia are rising
The Asian economic crisis helped spread HIV in Indonesia, but may have helped curb it in Thailand, according to a leading economist.

Martha Ainsworth, senior economist in the World Bank's Development Resources Group, says Indonesia's financial and political upheavals had helped spread the virus.

But economic problems in Thailand had prompted demand for social programmes which included those aimed at reducing HIV transmission.

Speaking at the 5th International Congress on Aids in Asia and the Pacific, Ms Ainsworth told Reuters news agency: "Indonesia was one of the countries where there was definitely a decline in social spending, and the impact was among the worst."

She added that there was also a shift in behaviour which helped spread the virus.

Thailand

However, in Thailand the incidence of Aids in all groups except intravenous drug users fell after the 1997 crisis.

The number of IV drug users with Aids went up from 40% to 48% in the first half of 1998, but it fell in all other groups, including sex workers.

The UN estimates that up to seven million people in the Asia Pacific region have HIV, but health experts admit it is difficult to obtain accurate statistics.

A 1998 report form the European Union's Aids programme and the Institute of Population Studies at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok states that nine times as many Thais had died of Aids as was reported in government statistics.

It also estimsted that three times as many Thais carried the virus than the 90,637 estimated by the government.

Ms Ainsworth said the disease had led to a fall in average life expectancy in the region.

In a report for the conference, which ends on Wednesday, the UN predicts that, by 2010, the number of people dying from Aids will rise by 20% in Myanmar and 15% in Cambodia and Thailand.

The predicted rise in Thai figures is due to the number of people currently infected.

Speakers at the conference have urged governments to take radical action to ensure Asia does not end up like Africa, where there are an estimated 21 million HIV cases and Aids has become the number one killer disease.

Vietnam

Meanwhile, Vietnam has banned people with HIV from working in industries where they have close contact with the public.

These include kindergartens, health care centres, beauty salons and restaurants.

It is unclear if people applying for jobs in these industries will have to have an HIV test.

Health workers already have to have regular check-ups which normally include an HIV test.

The Vietnamese authorities say over 16,000 people in the country are infected with HIV, but health workers believe the figure is much higher.

See also:

04 Nov 99 | Aids
08 Jul 99 | Aids
25 Oct 99 | Health
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