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Human security under threat: Worrying situation in Greater Mekong

HIV/Aids was pointed yesterday as a common threat to human security in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) where the spread of the deadly disease is considerably high along the border. The fears were raised at the Intersessional Meeting of the Human Security Network on Human Security and HIV/Aids hosted by the Foreign Ministry, which was participated by delegates from the Greater Mekong Sub-region, concerned United Nations agencies and regional organisations.

With the concept of “human security” being expanded from merely the absence of armed conflict to fundamental conditions needed for people to live safe, secure, healthy and productive lives, the meeting came to a perception that uncontrolled Aids is a “serious threat” to human security.

The discussion was specifically focused on the worrying situation in the Greater Mekong Sub-region comprising China, Laos, Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand.

The epidemic update shows that currently Cambodia, Burma and Thailand are the only three GMS countries where national prevalence rates exceed 1%.

However, there are also the significant increases registered in some of the world’s most heavily populated countries, such as China, Indonesia, and India. In China, the total number of HIV-infected people was estimated to have exceeded one million by late 2001.

In Laos, though HIV prevalence has remained low up to the present time, high-risk behaviour is still increasing in certain groups of the population, which could easily trigger a national epidemic. For instance, migrant Lao workers in Thailand may become infected after visiting sex workers and carry the virus to their homeland.

Mr Sandro Calvani, a representative of the United Nations International Drug Control Programme, emphasised the spread of HIV among injecting drug users in Greater Mekong Sub-region.

In China, he said 70% of known HIV/Aids infections are related to sharing needles. In Burma, a prevalence of HIV among injecting drug users has sharply increased from less than 1% in 1998 to between 73% and 96% in some areas in 1999. In Thailand, from 1985-87, HIV rates were between 0-1% among injecting drug users in Bangkok. The rate rose to 24% in 1998 and 39% in 1999.

Ghazi Farooq, director of Regional Thematic Working Group on HIV/Aids, UN Regional Coordination Mechanism for Asia and the Pacific, called for urgent and sustainable measures to fight HIV/Aids.

Bangkok Post, 22 Jan 2002

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