World AIDS Day Observed Today

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Men account for 70-80% of victims Basketball player Earvin ''Magic'' Johnson has it. Olympian swimmer Greg Louganis suffered from it. Freddie Mercury of the Queen Band died from it. What do they have in common? They are men and they had AIDS.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), men are now shaping Asia-Pacific's AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) epidemic, accounting for 70 to 80 percent of all infections. Eighty percent or more of those infected in Australia, China, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Vietnam are also men.

At the same time, men are also those who have had large numbers of sexual partners, engaged in the use of drugs and in other behavior that can lead to infection with HIV, or the virus that causes AIDS.

Today, Dec. 1, health leaders around the world recommit their effort to the AIDS campaign as it observes World AIDS Day. The campaign, which has "I care do you?" as its slogan, calls on men to join the battle against AIDS.

"Men need to be part of the solution, not just part of the problem. It is men who can change the direction of the epidemic," stressed Dr. Shigeru Omi, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific.

Omi said mainstreaming the male population to the AIDS program could bring about some changes to the current epidemic pattern. Evidence show that in various countries that adopted the campaign, changes in male's sexual behavior such as delaying the onset of sexual intercourse and using condoms more constantly were noted.

"Men's sexual behavior and habits have determined the epidemic's course and extent. It is from men that the virus spreads to women, their wives and partners, and then to children," it said.

Another important reason in Asia's epidemic is injecting drug use - a largely male habit. WHO said injecting drug use is the major route in HIV transmission in Malaysia, Nepal, Vietnam, and Yunnan province in China and Assam State in India. About 80 percent of all injecting drug users worldwide are men.

While not all men put themselves at risk of HIV infection, WHO said cultural notions about manhood influence the behavior of men. Many countries, it added, encouraged men to have many sexual partners and in some countries, it is almost a rite of passage for young men to visit sex workers. …