ILO says HIV/AIDS costs a million jobs a year

1st December 2006, Comments 0 comments

1 December 2006, The HIV/AIDS virus has resulted in a million fewer jobs a year being created in the worst-hit countries, compared to what might have been in the absence of the epidemic, a new report published in Geneva by the Independent Labour Organization said Friday, which was marked around the globe as World AIDS Day. The lack of access to treatment would also see mortality losses to the global labour market triple from 28 million estimated for 2005 to 86 million projected for 2020. Improved access to

1 December 2006

The HIV/AIDS virus has resulted in a million fewer jobs a year being created in the worst-hit countries, compared to what might have been in the absence of the epidemic, a new report published in Geneva by the Independent Labour Organization said Friday, which was marked around the globe as World AIDS Day.

The lack of access to treatment would also see mortality losses to the global labour market triple from 28 million estimated for 2005 to 86 million projected for 2020.

Improved access to antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) was urgently needed to prevent the forecast becoming reality.

According to the report, which studied 43 countries, an estimated 36.3 million people of working age were either infected or living with the virus worldwide.

Meanwhile in Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair took the occasion of World AIDS Day to urge religious leaders to "face up to reality" and drop bans on condoms to help the fight against AIDS.

"I think if all the churches and religious organizations were facing up to reality, it would be better," he told MTV music channel.

Blair said his government would increase the number of condoms being distributed. Over the next few years, 1.5 billion pounds (2.9 billion dollars) would be spent on the fight of HIV/AIDS, he added.

Germany marked World AIDS Day amid warnings that a carefree attitude to unprotected sex has triggered an increase in new infections.

Many people appear to be banishing AIDS from their minds, said Achim Teipelke, head of Frankfurt's Aidshilfe, the largest AIDS relief organization of its kind in Germany.

Some 56,000 Germans are infected with the HIV virus, around 34,000 of them homosexual men. There were 1,200 new infections in the first six months of this year, nearly twice as many as in 2001. Gay males accounted for two-thirds of the new infections.

German Economic Assistance Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul said that Germany would make combatting the disease a central theme of its presidency of the EU and G8 beginning in January.

India has the largest population of HIV infected people worldwide, accounting for 5.7 million of the 39.5 million HIV/AIDS cases globally, but many still suffer discrimination.

A recent study found that one-quarter of HIV-infected people were refused medical treatment on the basis of their HIV-positive status. The discrimination has been hindering efforts to prevent new infections.

Meanwhile, thousands of activists and HIV-positive people participated in a number of rallies in New Delhi and other Indian cities to mark World AIDS day.

The observance of Worlds AIDS Day began in 1988, two years after the first HIV case was detected in India.

India's Health Ministry claims that it has contained the prevalence of the epidemic to less than 1 per cent of the adult population. Federal Health Minister Ambumani Ramadoss has said HIV awareness and condom usage has increased by over 10 per cent since 2001.

There are 280 million young people in India, or 25 per cent of the population, and nearly 50 per cent of new HIV infections are among this 15 to 24 age group.

A survey by AIDS activists has shown that many young Japanese still believe HIV/AIDS is a distant problem that won't affect them, according to Aya Kagota, a 20-year-old member of the activist group.

As a result, many are not practising safe-sex techniques all the time.

Polling began on October 27 among teens and people in their 20s, and the group plans to survey 20,000 people by December 20.

The number of people newly diagnosed with HIV and AIDS hit a record of 1,199 last year in Japan, and 832 of them represented new HIV infections, according to the Health, Welfare and Labour Ministry. Of those 832, or 72 per cent, were in their 20s and 30s.

The number of Zimbabweans receiving anti-AIDS drugs has almost doubled in 2006 from 26,000 to 45,000 people, President Robert Mugabe said in a message to mark World AIDS Day.

But the life-prolonging drugs are still only reaching a fraction of those who need them: official media reported in October that 600,000 people, mostly women, required ARVs immediately.

AIDS, which kills more than 3,000 people a week in Zimbabwe has reached epidemic proportions. At least 1.8 million Zimbabweans are estimated to be living with HIV.

The 82-year-old leader remained upbeat about the recent reduction the country has registered in the prevalence of HIV infections, from 24.6 per cent in 2003 to 18.1 per cent this year.

Hong Kong health officials, meanwhile, expressed concern at the rising number of HIV cases in the former British colony amid an apparent trend toward unprotected sex.

Raymond Ho, a senior medical health officer with the territory's Health Department, said he was expecting to see a steep rise in HIV infections in Hong Kong by the end of the year.

"Up to September 30, we have recorded 275 new HIV infections," he said in an interview with government radio RTHK. "In the whole of 2005, we only recorded 313 infections, so we expect 360 to 380 infections by the year end."

However, Ho pointed out that the number of cases that have progressed from HIV to AIDS had fallen to 50 to 70 a year since anti- retroviral treatments became widely available.

Third-quarter figures released in November indicated that more gay men are contracting HIV, a trend Hong Kong officials said was common in other Asian cities and countries over the past two years.

Health workers said they fear the safe-sex message is failing to get through in the way it did during the peak of the AIDS crisis in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Infection rates in Hong Kong remained relatively low in regional terms, however. The city has recorded 3,100 HIV infections and 841 cases of AIDS since 1985.

In Cambodia, First Lady Bun Rany has begged the nation's youth not to be "too happy" and forget the threat HIV/AIDS poses to their future.

"The infection rate for Cambodians aged 15 to 49 decreased from 2.3 per cent in 1997 to 1.9 per cent at the end of 2003, and we hope to reduce that to 1.5 per cent by 2015," Bun Rany said.

Although Cambodia has successfully reduced its infection rates in recent years, experts warn that a post-war population boom which has led to nearly two-thirds of the population now being aged under 25 has laid the foundations for a potential new epidemic.

DPA

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