By Shihar Aneez
COLOMBO, Aug 19 (Reuters) - Officials and health care workers met in Sri Lanka on Sunday to urge a comprehensive approach to tackling AIDS in Asia, which has some 8.6 million people infected with the HIV virus.
The Asia-Pacific region has the world’s second largest number of people living with HIV after sub-Saharan Africa where 25.8 million people are infected with the virus. More than 300,000 people die from AIDS in the region annually.
“We have 8.6 million HIV infected people in Asia, (this is) too many,” said Professor Myung Hwan Cho, president of the AIDS society of the Asia and the Pacific in his opening remarks to the 8th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific.
Some 2,500 delegates from more than 40 countries are attending the five-day conference.
Sri Lanka has one of the lowest rates of HIV in Asia, with an estimated 5,000 infected people out of a population of around 20 million.
Neighbouring India, by comparison, has the world’s third highest HIV caseload after South Africa and Nigeria, with around 2.5 million people living with the virus.
The U.N. agency UNAIDS said the region faced new challenges and threats.
“These include a wider tendency towards complacency ... and denial of AIDS being an epidemic in the region,” said Deborah Landey, deputy executive director of UNAIDS.
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