One hundred thousand condoms and HIV/AIDS prevention pamphlets were distributed to athletes participating in the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympic Games via medical centers in the Olympic village. "There are many young, strong, single people in the athletes' village and, like everywhere, some will fall in love or other things, so we need to make condoms available," said Ole Hansen, a spokesperson for UNAIDS China. The Beijing Health Bureau also distributed 400,000 condoms and 250,000 pamphlets during the games in more than 90,000 rooms in 424 hotels in the city. The materials were provided by UNAIDS, the Beijing organizing committee, and the International Olympic Committee. (Reuters, 12/8/08; Xinhuanet, 15/8/08)
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Despite significant progress in scaling up HIV testing and counseling services and access to antiretrovirals (ARVs), Papua New Guinea has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS and STIs in the Asia-Pacific region, said Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The number of people who have accessed HIV testing and counseling has increased five-fold this year, reaching almost 82,000, and the number with access to ARVs has risen from fewer than 200 in 2005 to 2,800 as of March 2008. But the country's overall prevalence is 1.28 percent among adults 15-49 and rising, with the greatest increases coming in rural rather than urban areas, and among young girls and older men, according to recent research. (Papua New Guinea Post-Courier, 17/7/08; PACNews/Islands Business, 7/7/08)
Amnesty International has also reported that violence against women in Papua New Guinea is contributing to the spread of HIV. AIDS-related deaths are "sometimes believed to be the result of sorcery," for which local women, accused of practicing witchcraft, are tortured or murdered. Researchers at the Centre for Independent Studies in Australia estimate that there have been 500 such attacks in the past year. (Australian Associated Press, 30/5/08)
The Philippine Department of Health will now actively promote condoms to fight the spread of HIV, despite opposition from the local Roman Catholic Church, which strongly opposes all forms of artificial contraception. "The use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS is different from their use for birth control. The church's position is detrimental to public health," said Health Undersecretary Mario Villaverde. "We cannot really prevent people, regardless of their religious belief, from engaging in high-risk behavior, and so we must educate them and we must provide some preventive and control measures for them."
Although the Philippines is considered a low-prevalence country, with less than 0.1 percent of the population HIV-positive, the number of people living with HIV/AIDS rose nearly 25 percent in the last five years. In 2007, the Philippine Department of Health and the World Health Organization estimated that 7,490 people were living with HIV/AIDS in the Philippines, up from 6,000 in 2002. (Agence France-Presse, 28/8/08; Philippine Star, 29/9/08; Philippine Daily Inquirer, 28/8/08)