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Governments should play more active role in combating AIDS: UN official

11-30-2011 15:05 BJT Special Report:World AIDS Day 2011 |

MOSCOW, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- As AIDS remains a threat to national well-being in many countries, governments should play a more active role in combating the disease, a UN official told Xinhua on Tuesday.

Commenting ahead of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, Jean-Elie Malkin, regional director for Europe and Central Asia of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said that AIDS-related problems have been worsening in some countries despite efforts from the world body and the international community to eradicate the disease.

In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, specifically, the latest UN report showed that HIV prevalence has been deteriorating at a fast pace, as the number of HIV-infected people has grown by 250 percent from 2001 to 2010.

"Russia and Ukraine account for almost 90 percent of the region's 1.5 million people affected," Malkin said.

The official said reasons for the increase in HIV cases in Eastern Europe and Central Asia included the impact of the global economic crisis and the fact that Russia and Central Asia serve as transit routes for drug trafficking from Afghanistan.

Malkin also noted that governments in the region are now more aware about AIDS-related problems than a few years ago and that authorities have begun to understand that the plight of HIV-infected people should not be neglected.

"So our task in the region is to work out more adequate measures to cope with the problem, like those in over 50 countries where the epidemic has been decreased or stabilized," Malkin said.

He added that his regional office has set a goal to increase the awareness of individuals and the governments in the region on the problem in the next few years.

Around the world, Malkin said, the UNAIDS program focuses on the most vulnerable groups in the population, especially intravenous drug addicts and migrants, which requires support from the government.

"The governments should transform their attitude to these people, from stigmatizing them to supporting them. This is a critical part of the job -- to change the attitude of the general population, of the health-care professionals, of the government officials to that specific group," Malkin said.

"Unless we change the attitude, we will not succeed in controlling the epidemic," he added.

Malkin stressed that migrants and drug addicts should not be discriminated against but should be included in the national health-care system.

"If they were neglected, their problem would affect the entire population pretty soon," he said.

Malkin also listed other measures to fight the disease.

"To control the spreading of the HIV, we should control the chain from a drug producer to a final user," he said. "If we do not control all the chain, we fail. We must reach the final user, a drug-addict, in the first hand."

The official added that another important measure is to address the conservative parts of the society, "to persuade them that helping HIV-infected people is good for the society rather than letting them die."

"The conservatives, for ideological or economical reasons, are not fully convinced that AIDS poses a danger for the 'good-behaving' public as well," Malkin said.

"We as a UN agency are trying to take measures to convince these conservatives, (and) decision-makers on the best ways to response to the problem," he said.

Editor:Zhang Hao |Source: Xinhua

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