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Wednesday, 5 February, 2003, 11:35 GMT
South Asia Aids warning
An HIV-positive orphan
Children are among the millions of HIV-positive Asians
South Asia must act now to bring the spread of HIV/Aids under control, United Nations officials have warned.

"Immediate action can prevent at least five million new HIV infections by 2010," Peter Piot, head of the UN anti-Aids programme, told a major conference in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, on Tuesday.

A delay in prevention of further spread of HIV/AIDS will only aggravate the epidemic and reverse South Asia's expected economic and social progress

Peter Piot
He said there was still time to turn back the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the region.

The head of the UN Children's Fund, Unicef, said education was essential to control the spread of HIV, the virus that can lead to Aids.

"South Asia is the second largest HIV/AIDS affected region in the world after South Africa, needing all government leaders, scholars and, in particular, the younger generation to take up strong measures to control it," Carol Bellamy told delegates to the two-day meeting.

"It is not just a matter of health, HIV/AIDS control is a most important task which can be done only through proper educational campaigns."

Intervention needed

India officially has four million HIV-positive people, more than any other country except South Africa, where five million are infected.

Needles
Infection rates are highest among intravenous drug users and sex workers
A US study last year predicted 20 million to 25 million Indians would be infected by 2010 - unless more is done to prevent it.

Nepal is believed to have more than 60,000 people with Aids or HIV, but only 2,598 cases have been detected, including 250 deaths.

"The HIV/AIDS infection rate is very high [in South Asia]," said Mr Piot.

"A delay in prevention of further spread of HIV/AIDS will only aggravate the epidemic and reverse South Asia's expected economic and social progress."

Two ministers from Afghanistan participated in the conference, along with top health officials from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.


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