NEWS: Thailand's Aids crisis: Worst 'yet to come'

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Jyothi Kanics---Global Survival Network (jkanics@igc.apc.org)
Wed, 21 Oct 1998 14:28:28 -0700 (PDT)


BBC: World: Asia-Pacific

             Thailand's Aids crisis: Worst
             'yet to come'

             Thai prostitutes continue to be the main victims

             Medical researchers in Thailand have warned that the spread
             of Aids in the country is far worse than originally thought
             with up to 286,000 deaths from the disease by the end of the
             century.

             The situation is worse in the poorest northern region of the
             country where 80% of deaths amongst females aged 25 to 29
             are attributable to Aids.

             A joint study, by the European Union and the Institute of
             Population Studies in Bangkok, says the number of Thais
             who have died of Aids is nine times higher than has been
             reported officially.

             "Preliminary calculations show that the vast majority of
             Aids-related mortality in Thailand is still to come," it said.

                                 The study says the biggest
                                 increase in infection is among
                                 women in their early-twenties in
                                 the northern province of Chang
                                 Rai, from where many of
                                 Thailand's prostitutes are
                                 recruited.

                                 There deaths related to Aids
                                 rose from 0.83 per 1,000 females
                                 in 1990 to 8.46% in 1996.

                                 Prostitutes who fall ill whilst
                                 working in cities such as
                                 Bangkok are often sent back to
             the their home villages where understanding of Aids is
             limited.

             The growing use of intravenous drugs in the north of the
             country has also contributed to rising infection rates.

             Nationwide decline

             However, nationwide the study said there was evidence to
             show the number of new infections had sharply declined
             between 1993 and 1996.

             The report says nationwide nearly a quarter-of-a-million have
             died of the disease since 1985, but just 24,667 deaths were
             reported by the Public Health Ministry.

             The researchers blame the discrepancy in Aids statistics on
             the stigma attached to the disease, which leads to
             under-reporting by health workers and victims' families.

             "Under-reporting is a worldwide phenomenon and is related
             to the resources allocated to the health system," said Alessio
             Panza, head of the EU's Aids programme in Bangkok.

             "Even countries with a lot of resources have under-reporting.
             The problem is that many medical staff don't consider
             collecting the data a useful activity, so they either don't do it
             or invent the figures."


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