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AIDS Seen Likely to Threaten Asia

November 25, 1987

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ The AIDS virus probably will sweep through Asia in the coming years, but the deadly disease has not spread as rapidly here as in other parts of the world, experts told a conference.

The prediction was made Tuesday at an international conference on AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Dr. Hiroshi Suzuki of the World Health Organization said the disease will threaten all countries until health experts are able to cure or control the disease.

″AIDS cannot be stopped in one country unless it is stopped in all countries using scientific and educational tools,″ he said.

Dr. John Dwyer, chief of the AIDS unit at Prince Henry Hospital in Sydney, Australia, told the conference that the incidence of the fatal disease was lower in Asia than in most of the world.

″In five, six or seven years in much of Asia, we could see the myth of Asian superiority over this disease disappear and it could become the tragedy it is in the rest of the world,″ Dwyer said.

The AIDS virus attacks the body’s immune system, leaving victims susceptible to a wide variety of infections and cancers. The disease is most often transmitted through sexual contact. There is no known cure.

Asia and Oceania account for less than 2 percent of the 65,000 known AIDS cases worldwide. The United States accounts for 77 percent while Africa has recorded 10 percent.

Dwyer said poor health practices prevalent in much of Asia will make the continent susceptible to the disease in the coming years.

Dr. Ofelia Monzon of the government’s Research Institute for Tropical Medicine said the relatively low percentages of Asian cases may stem from an inability to diagnose the disease in a continent where premature death is more common than in developed countries.

″Asia is in a situation the U.S. was in 10 years ago,″ Monzon said. ″But in the next few years, we can anticipate a rise in AIDS cases among the indigenous Asian population as Asians are becoming more sexually liberated and travel to and from Asian countries is increasing.″

Suzuki said the economic impact of the disease will impose heavy burdens on poor Asian countries.

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