ADB says transport spending may increase AIDS in Asia

ADB says transport spending may increase AIDS in Asia

from AFP via Google

MANILA (AFP) — Massive Asian Development Bank lending to the region’s transport sector may be helping drive the spread of AIDS across the world’s most populous continent, the bank said in a study released Thursday.

It cited 16 percent prevalence rates of the HIV virus that causes AIDS along one particular transport route in southern India, compared with less than one percent nationwide.

In Bangladesh, long-distance truck drivers had the highest HIV rates among the general population, while in China the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases among truckers was up to four times that in the population at large.

The Mandalay-Muse highway, built in 1997 to link Myanmar with China, has led to an increase in drug use, dramatically raising HIV rates among injecting drug users in three Myanmar provinces, the study said.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said that construction, especially large infrastructure projects, draws a large influx of men into rural areas, and along with attracting cash, boosts the demand for sex.

Commercial sex work and the trafficking of drugs and humans, particularly women and girls for sex work, also follow major construction projects and transport routes, the study said.

“Better roads bring many benefits but also increase risks through greater mobility and connectivity,” the ADB said.

“Mobile people, especially ‘mobile men with money’ are more likely to engage in risk behaviours such as unprotected sex with casual partners and sex workers, and drug use,” the Manila-based lender said.

The ADB said it was now integrating prevention, education and treatment programmes into its infrastructure programmes.

Transport and infrastructure development is now the largest and fastest-growing sector of the ADB’s operations, accounting for 33 percent of all its lending in the six years to 2005.

The United Nations estimates 5.4 million people live with HIV/AIDS in the Asia-Pacific region, with nearly a million new infections in the past two years, and with injecting drug use the main driver of the epidemic, the study said.

About 640,000 people have died from AIDS-related diseases in the continent.

HIV is considered a “generalised epidemic” in Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, and six states of India, and is a “concentrated epidemic” among defined sub-populations in Indonesia, Nepal, Malaysia, Vietnam and China.

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