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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”


Regional health meeting concludes in Laos

Asia Health Experts to Step Up Anti-AIDS Program for Sex Workers
Agence France Presse (08.21.03)::Ben Rowse

At the end of a four-day meeting in the Laotian capital Vientiane, Asian
health experts agreed to expand the "100 percent condom use program." The
program, promoted across the region by the World Health Organization,
involves distributing condoms to sex workers, teaching them about safe
sex, and enlisting the support of the police.

"There are few success stories in AIDS. This is one of them," said Dr.
Bernard Fabre-Teste, head of the HIV and sexually transmitted infections
unit at WHO's Western Pacific Regional Office in Manila. Pilot programs
begun in several countries over the last few years have boosted condom use
and reduced new HIV infections, according to WHO.

Prostitution is a major force driving the AIDS epidemic in Asia. "The most
effective and responsible public health measures against HIV/AIDS in Asia
need to focus on high-risk behaviors, which is commercial sex and
injecting drug use," said Fabre- Teste.


WHO pointed out that the implementation of the "100 percent condom use
program" has led to more than an 80 percent decline in new HIV infections
in Thailand and Cambodia. The UN agency said the continuation of the
program was necessary to control the spread of the virus in Myanmar, a
potential AIDS tinderbox with relatively high HIV rates and a thriving sex

Conference participants stressed that political and financial support are
essential for the success of the program. "There has been good progress
but we still have many hurdles to cross to expand the program," said

Source: CDC HIV/STD/TB Prevention News Update 08/21/03

WHO Lauds Myanmar's Progress in Promoting Condom Use
Associated Press, August 21, 2003

VIENTIANE, Laos (AP)--Myanmar, a conservative country that wouldn't even
acknowledge having prostitution just two years ago, has made great strides
in promoting condom use to fight the spread of AIDS, said World Health
Organization officials.

"This is an amazing shift in Myanmar's policy," WHO spokeswoman Mangai
Balasegaram said Thursday at the end of a regional conference organized by
the U.N. organization to promote condom use.

"Only three weeks ago the word 'condom' was used for the first time in the
national press, in an article from the New Light of Myanmar," she said
referring to one of the country's state-owned newspapers.

At the conference, Myanmar health official Dr. Tun Myint said his
government was now distributing condoms through a national AIDS program
funded by a US$21 million Trust Fund for HIV-AIDS from the United Nations.

The conference, organized to promote the strategy of "100 percent" condom
use in the sex industry, was attended by representatives of WHO's Western
Pacific region countries: Cambodia, China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos and the

Myanmar and Thailand - which pioneered the "100 percent" strategy in
1991-92 - attended as observers. The 100 percent strategy seeks to ensure
that condoms are used in every sexual transaction between a sex worker and

Tun Myint, assistant director of AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Disease
Control in Myanmar's Department of Health, said an estimated average of 20
to 50 female sex workers work in each of Myanmar's district capitals.

In late 2000, a "100 percent" condom use program was begun on a pilot
basis in four district capitals, and Tun Myint said 60 district capitals
are being targeted by the end of 2003.

The participation of a representative from Myanmar was a highlight of the
four-day conference, said Balasegaram.

Equally encouraging was the presence of Myanmar Cabinet ministers at an
international meeting on HIV transmission through drug use held in Yangon
last week, she said.


Tun Myint said Myanmar had identified 45,968 people with HIV - the virus
that causes AIDS - by March 2003.

WHO estimates are significantly higher.

By the end of 2001, an estimated 180,000 to 400,000 individuals were
living with HIV/AIDS, according to its Epidemiological Fact Sheet on
HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections. "AIDS deaths will constitute
a major, if not the major, cause of death in young adults during the
coming decade."

WHO officials nevertheless view Myanmar's example positively.

"It is difficult to talk about sex in Asia, but quiet work is now breaking
taboos," said Balasegaram.

Cross-posted from Healthgap List Mon, 25 Aug 2003