People unaware of their HIV status could jeopardize the battle against HIV/AIDS

News release

Fifty-ninth session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, 22-26 September, 2008, Manila, Philippines

MANILA, 25 September 2008—The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that, despite good progress, the fight against HIV/AIDS may be jeopardized as the majority of people with HIV are unaware of their condition.

Available data on HIV testing and counselling indicate that the majority of people living with HIV still do not know they are sick and, therefore, are not only missing the opportunity to access available services, but may also unknowingly be spreading the disease.

WHO noted that while interventions for the prevention of HIV transmission are well established, their scale and coverage are often limited. In the Western Pacific Region, marginalized populations such as sex workers, injecting drug users and men who have sex with men are the main drivers of the epidemic, but coverage is not sufficient.

In addition, HIV/AIDS access programmes often fail to reach the wives, girlfriends and partners of these main drivers, further narrowing the window of opportunity to avoid more serious epidemics.

About 1.3 million people, including 21 000 children, were living with HIV/AIDS in the Western Pacific Region in 2007, compared to 750 000 in 2001. Some 150 000 new HIV infections occurred that year.

Addressing the Regional Committee for the Western Pacific Region, Dr Shigeru Omi, WHO Regional Director, said more strategic information is urgently needed to ensure guidance for proper planning of interventions and allocation of resources. Such interventions include raising awareness about the growth of TB-HIV co-infections, strengthening links between programmes for HIV and sexual transmitted infections and other health programmes.

The Regional Committee, WHO's governing body in the Western Pacific, is meeting in Manila to review WHO's work in the Region, including progress on HIV/AIDS.

Requests to interview WHO experts on specific topics on the agenda can be arranged through Marilu Lingad at +63 918 918 1094 or e-mail: lingadm@wpro.who.int or Teena Nery at +63 2 528 9991 or e-mail: neryma@wpro.who.int

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