Joy Lynn Alegarbes, right, holds a female condom as she demonstrates during an awareness campaign at the 9th International Congress on Aids in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia. More than 3000 delegates from 65 countries participate from various civil society groups. -Photo by AP
NUSA DUA Experts from 65 nations gathered in Indonesia on Sunday to assess progress in the battle against HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, amid concerns that only a quarter of those in need in the region were getting treatment, AFP reported

The ninth International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP), to be opened by Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on the resort island of Bali, would look at how to ensure 'universal access' to antiretroviral treatment, congress chairman Zubairi Djoerban said.

An estimated five million Asians are living with HIV, especially in southeastern countries such as Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines and Indonesia, according to a UN report released last year.

While there are some bright spots in the region, such as Cambodia, where HIV prevalence has declined through condom use, new infections are growing in populous countries such as Bangladesh and China, the report said.

In Indonesia and South Asia, Mr Djoerban said, the biggest threat was the lethal combination of dirty needles and unprotected sex.

'We're concerned about India, Indonesia and Pakistan, where there is overlapping of drug injecting and unprotected sex, this includes sex workers taking drugs and drug users not using condoms,' he said. 'New infections are offsetting positive results from preventive actions.'

The congress, which runs until Thursday, would demand commitment from governments to tackle a disease that killed 380,000 people across Asia in 2007, he said.

'We ask for commitment from the countries to achieve the targets they have set and if they say they can't, we'll discuss new efforts to help them reach their goals.

'We can discuss prevention and treatment but with no leadership and commitment from countries and the community, we won't achieve much.'

He said that only 25 per cent of the 1.7 million of people with HIV/AIDS in the Asia-Pacific region who needed the treatment were receiving it. 'We're still far away from our target.

'We're not talking 100 per cent, which is the ideal. If Latin America can treat 62 per cent of sufferers there, we should strive towards that.'

UNAIDS regional director Prasada Rao said that countries such as Thailand, Cambodia and Laos were able to treat 80 per cent of HIV-positive people but about 10 countries managed to cover only 10 to 15 per cent, due to geographical limitations and lack of funding.

In Indonesia, where HIV/AIDS cases have tripled since 2005 to 26,632, prisoners and prostitutes have joined injecting drug users to become people most at risk.

Opinion

Editorial

Elections in India
Updated 21 Apr, 2024

Elections in India

Independent accounts and spot reports are at variance with Modi-friendly TV anchors and they do not see an easy victory for the Indian premier.
IHC letter
21 Apr, 2024

IHC letter

THIS is a historic opportunity for the judiciary to define its institutional boundaries. It must not be squandered....
Olympic preparations
21 Apr, 2024

Olympic preparations

THIS past week marked the beginning of the 100-day countdown to the Paris Olympics, with the symbolic torch-lighting...
Isfahan strikes
Updated 20 Apr, 2024

Isfahan strikes

True de-escalation means Israel must start behaving like a normal state, not a rogue nation that threatens the entire region.
President’s speech
20 Apr, 2024

President’s speech

PRESIDENT Asif Ali Zardari seems to have managed to hit all the right notes in his address to the joint sitting of...
Karachi terror
20 Apr, 2024

Karachi terror

IS urban terrorism returning to Karachi? Yesterday’s deplorable suicide bombing attack on a van carrying five...