APEC health meetings stress regional HIV/AIDS policies

Promoting health policies and programs to combat HIV/AIDS is among the priorities of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Health Working Group, which started its two-day meetings Thursday at the Lima Chamber of Commerce. The head of the meetings, Australian Jan Benett, told Agencia Andina the objective is to promote effective policies and programs in the 21 Pacific Rim member economies in order to combat HIV/AIDS.

Benett said a key is to combat the social stigma affecting HIV/AIDS carriers as well as its negative impact on the economy.

“Its treatment, besides affecting individuals, has a wide impact on the economic environment. That’s why APEC considers it a relevant topic,” Benett said, referring to the forums principal objectives to discuss the regional economy and trade.

The Health Working Group will also discuss the Avian Flu and Severe Acute Respiratory System, SARS, in an attempt to “be well prepared to fight a possible epidemic… which could expand quickly through the entire APEC economic bloc.”

According to USAID, 82,000 Peruvians were living with HIV/AIDS in 2003. However, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, UNAIDS, says some 93,000 people are affected, with high estimates reaching 150,000 people. Sex workers and gay men are reportedly the most vulnerable communities to HIV/AIDS in Peru.

“In our society it is still very hard to talk about sexually transmitted diseases and HIV,” UNICEF reported Cusco-based nurse Carla Aragón Vallenas saying in 2005. “Because this subject is still taboo or because adolescents have the wrong information.”

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