HIV AIDS in Asia and the Pacific

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Asia and the Pacific is a particularly high-risk region when it comes to HIV and AIDS. While over a million Americans are currently infected with the virus, nearly six million have HIV or AIDS in the Asia and Pacific region of the world.

There are various factors that led to the number getting so high, all of which we’ll cover today. We’re also going to take an in-depth look at what can be done to reduce the spread of HIV in this region ad provide adequate treatment to those who are already infected. Let’s start with some of the key statistics.

Asia-Pacific cases

As of the year 2018, there are nearly six million people who are suffering from HIV in Asia and the Pacific alone. Over one million Americans are also suffering from the disease. That means that 0.2% of all adults — aged between 15 and 49 — are affected by the virus in this region.

That may not seem like a lot, but when you factor in the total population of the region then you start to see just how serious the problem is. There are over 300,000 new cases every single year showing that the spread of this disease shows no signs of stopping unless scientists find a way to better protect the public from it.

Treatment rate in the region

Out of these millions of people who are suffering from HIV, only half of them are getting proper treatment. Statistics show that of the 5,900,000 patients with HIV in the Asia and Pacific region of the world, only 54% of these adults are currently on antiretroviral treatment. This adds up to roughly 3,200,000. That means that 2,700,000 people with HIV aren’t getting the treatment they need to protect them from infections like pneumonia and prevent the development of AIDS.

It’s worth noting that not everyone who has the virus gets diagnosed and thus the actual number of patients with HIV may be much higher than 5,900,000 meaning that the percentage of them receiving proper treatment is likely far lower than 54%. To treat all these patients, more effort needs to be done to educate everyone in the region on the disease and where they can get their treatment — along with the importance of doing so.

Regional awareness

Out of the millions of patients with HIV in this region of the world, statistics from UNAIDS shows that only 69% of them know that they have the disease. This is significant to the big picture in a few ways. First of all, patients who have HIV but don’t know that they’re infected with the virus pose the highest risk of spreading the disease to others.

This is due to the fact that they don’t know that they have it and thus might not use proper precautions when having sexual relations with others. Furthermore, if they don’t know that they have HIV then they won’t be able to get their treatment and may develop AIDS in a matter of a few years.

Having more people get themselves tested on a regular basis is the easiest way to resolve this problem, but that can only be done through awareness campaigns that inform the public on the risks of HIV.

Asia-Pacific Drug Injections

You might be wondering what role injections and narcotics play in this region. Well, as you would imagine, the impact of injecting drugs is a major factor in the spread of the disease. In fact, a study conducted in 2015 found that as many as 65% of all new HIV cases in Vietnam, Myanmar, Afghanistan, and Pakistan were the result of people injecting drugs.

This is due to the fact that those with HIV often don’t know that they are infected with the virus when they share needles. Some who are aware simply don’t care enough to stop due to the depressing nature of their circumstances. By reducing the drug rates in some areas of the Asia-Pacific region, a reduction in new HIV cases is bound to follow suit.

MSMs in Asia and the Pacific

The MSM acronym is commonly used when talking about HIV and AIDS. It stands for men who have sex with men. This is a very high-risk group when you analyze the spread of the disease in the Asia and Pacific region. Yogyakarta, Yangon, and Bankok have very high prevalence rates when it comes to this demographic.

Those in the MSM group in these areas of the Asia and Pacific region are very susceptible to contracting HIV as studies show that the prevalence rate can be as high as 29% and likely not lower than 20%. Many cases also go unreported meaning the rate could very well be higher for those in the MSM demographic who live in this region.

In Bangkok specifically, studies show that the HIV prevalence in men who have sex with men who are in the age group of between 18 and 21 was over two times higher than the prevalence rate in men over the age of 30. This is due to the fact that younger men generally use condoms less than those in older demographics.

Transgenders in the Asia-Pacific region

Transgenders, much like MSMs, are at high risk for contracting the virus if they reside in this part of the world. For instance, the prevalence rate for HIV in Delhi is a whopping 49% in Delhi. This means that almost half of all transgenders in Delhi have HIV.

The harsh truth is that many cases in Delhi are yet to be diagnosed meaning that the actual figure is likely well above half. Transgenders who sell sex in India are seen to have an HIV prevalence rate of 90% in India. The problem also applies to other regions in Asia and the Pacific.

Indonesia and Malaysia have prevalence rates of 81% and 84% respectively for transgenders who sell sex. That being said, even cis heterosexuals who sell sex in this region can contract the disease, and that’s what we’re going to cover in the next section.

Asia-Pacific sex workers HIV prevalence

Sex workers — along with the clients who enlist their services — actually served as the foundation for the HIV epidemic in this region of the world. That’s because many sex workers don’t practice safe sex through the use of condoms.

They also have many sexual partners, increasing their odds of contracting the disease then spreading it to other clients. That being said, while the outbreak started with sex workers, nations in the Asia-Pacific region have made great progress with reducing the spread of the virus. This is a direct result of condom-use programs targeted at sex workers to ensure that they don’t contract nor transmit the disease while in the Asia-Pacific region.

It’s worth noting that clients tend to be at higher risk for contracting HIV in the Asia-Pacific in comparison to sex workers themselves. Some nations in this region have prevalence rates as high as 15% for clients who buy sex. Female sex workers show the highest prevalence of HIV in the Asian nation of Papua New Guinea. 17.8% of female sex workers in the country have already been diagnosed with HIV, with countless more yet to be diagnosed.

Condom use in Asia and the Pacific

Ever since the epidemic of HIV spread through this region, nations have relied on condoms to curve the number of new cases and try to keep the problem under control. Some nations in the Asia-Pacific region have had great success with this. 91% of all sex workers in India use condoms when having intercourse with their clients.

The high rates of HIV in India contribute to the willingness of clients to use protection during these transactions. Drug-users generally have lower condom-usage than those who don’t use narcotics. That being said, India has the highest condom-use percentage for this demographic as well with 77% of drug-users practicing safe sex. Condom-use for those in the MSM group who reside in the Asia-Pacific region has also risen in recent years.

Nepal is leading the charge with a coverage rate of 95% while India falls behind with 82% for the MSM demographic. Studies have also shown that condom-use in the Asia-Pacific region is generally higher in rural areas rather than urban areas — though this could be partially due to the fact that there are more sexual relations occurring in the city as a result of the higher population and density.

Conclusion

The HIV AIDS epidemic in Asia and the Pacific is very real. What started as an issue reserved for sex workers and their clients has quickly spread into other demographics within the region. Fortunately, the nations in this part of the world have taken notice and are making their best effort to control the epidemic. The fact that an epidemic occurred in the first place is very unfortunate, but the programs by these nations are saving lives on a daily basis.

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