Subject: Low HIV rate could easily escalate, warns health minister

East Timor: Low HIV rate could easily escalate, warns health minister

Lusa 8.7.2002

East Timor`s minister of health has said that his country has all the conditions necessary for the outbreak of an Aids epidemic and urgent measure are needed to prevent this.

Rui Araujo, currently attending a world conference on HIV/AIDS in Barcelona, said that Timor possessed "all the ingredients" needed for a serious epidemic.

Poverty, street children, unemployment and prostitution all existed in Timor, and the present HIV rate of 0.64 percent was just "the tip of the iceberg", Araujo told ABC Radio in Australia on his way to Barcelona.

Dili's health minster said that this figure was based on inadequate analysis and limited research. The Timorese health authorities were making all efforts to involve the whole nation, including the church, parliament and even the president in an awareness raising measures, said Araujo.

The Timorese health ministry will shortly launch a nationwide campaign, including the distribution of condoms, a voluntary testing and counseling service and a case notification program, said Araujo.

The Dili representative of the United Nations Development Program, Phillips Young, said last week that as Timor was "a country practically not affected by Aids", it had "a priceless opportunity to avoid a major epidemic".

The first Aids case was notified in Dili in December, 2001.

Currently, there are six confirmed cases in Timor: three of Aids (one death) and three HIV poistive, according to Dili`s health authorities.

see also Transcript of the Interview with Minister of Health, East Timor (PDF file)

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