HIV Epidemic in the Western Pacific Region
Despite an increase in the number of people living with HIV in the Western Pacific Region from 2001 to 2008, the epidemic is still considered low level because the overall prevalence in the Region remains well below 1% in most of the countries. In 2008, prevalence among adults stood at 0.1%.
In 2001, the estimated number of people living with HIV in the Western Pacific Region was 870 000, including 260 000 women and 13 000 children. A total of 1.4 million people were living with HIV in the Western Pacific in 2008, including 410 000 women (29%) and 31 000 children under the age of 15. More than 90 000 people died of AIDS-related illness.
In 2008, an estimated 130 000 people were newly infected with HIV, including 5700 children under 15 years. This was slightly lower than estimates of new infections in previous years, suggesting that the epidemic is slowing and containment efforts are working.
Almost 90% of HIV infections in the Region were monitored in just five countries. Cambodia, China, Malaysia and Viet Nam have concentrated HIV epidemics. This means that while HIV prevalence rates are below 1% among the general population, they are above 5% in at least one section of the population in each of the four countries. The most alarming situation is in Papua New Guinea, where the epidemic is now classified as generalized after the HIV prevalence rate among adults rose beyond 1%.
HIV infection is higher among men because they engage more frequently in high-risk behaviours than women.
Certain subpopulations are more at risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV infection than others. Depending on circumstances, these populations may include drug-dependent people who use needles and syringes, sex workers and their clients, and men who have sex with other men. Risky behaviours include sharing of contaminated needles and syringes, engaging in sex with multiple partners and low condom use.
In the Western Pacific Region, the HIV epidemic is mostly driven by high-risk groups in the population. For instance, the 2006 HIV Serological Survey in Cambodia showed that HIV prevalence among sex workers was 13%. In China and Viet Nam, HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs was 8% and 20%, respectively, in 2008. Throughout the Region, the rate of HIV infection among men who have sex with men ranged from below 1% to 9%.
Prevalence of syphilis in the Western Pacific Region remains variable. There has been a reported increase in syphilis in most-at-risk populations in China.