Geneva (ANTARA News) - Indonesia has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in Asia, while in Vietnam the number of people living with the virus more than doubled between 2000 and 2005, the United Nations said in a report Tuesday.
Across Asia, an estimated 4.9 million people were living with HIV, including 440,000 newly infected in the past year, while about 300,000 died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2007, UNAIDS was quoted by AFP as saying in its annual report.
The study showed Southeast Asia had the highest prevalence of HIV in the continent, but the region displayed wide variation between countries.
"While the epidemics in Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand all show declines in HIV prevalence, those in Indonesia (especially in the Papua province) and Vietnam are growing," UNAIDS said.
In both countries, the majority of new infections occurred among injecting drug users and from unprotected sex with non-regular partners or sex workers.
But in Indonesia's remote Papua province, bordering Papua New Guinea, the epidemic was more serious with unprotected sex being the main form of transmission, it said.
A province-wide survey in 2006 found HIV prevalence among 15-24-year-olds was 3 percent.
In Vietnam, the estimated number of people living with HIV more than doubled between 2000 and 2005 to 260,000, UNAIDS said.
While the majority of new infections were still linked to injecting drug users, increasing numbers of women are acquiring HIV from males who caught the virus through intravenous drug use or unsafe paid sex, the report said.
Meanwhile, infection rates in neighbouring Cambodia and Thailand continued to decline.
"In Cambodia, there is evidence that well-focused and sustained prevention efforts can help reverse an HIV epidemic," UNAIDS said, with the adult HIV rate falling to an estimated 0.9 percent in 2006 from a peak of 2 percent in 1998.
Intravenous drug use and unprotected sex were the cause of most new infections in China, but "recent data indicate an emerging epidemic among men who have sex with men in the main cities," the report said.
"The overlap of injecting drug use and sex work is an important factor in the HIV epidemic in China," it said.
With new, more accurate data, the UN sharply reduced its estimate of those living with HIV-AIDS in India to about 2.5 million people, an adult HIV prevalence of 0.36 percent.
Infection rates were generally much higher in the southern states than those in the north, it said, varying from 0.07 percent in Uttar Pradesh to 0.97 percent in Andhra Pradesh.
HIV was mainly spreading in India due to unprotected paid sex, apart from in northeast India where intravenous drug use was the key risk factor, the report said.
In Pakistan, HIV prevalence was increasing among injecting drug users, it said.