Sandro Calvani

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ASEAN-AIDS: Time running out in Asia’s battle against AIDS: UN
Agence France-Presse - August 1, 2002

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Aug 1 (AFP) - Time is running out for Asia in its battle to contain an emerging AIDS epidemic, a United Nations health expert warned here Thursday.

Werasit Sittitrai, director of the progamme development and coordination group UNAIDS said Asia could surpass other regions in terms of the number of people infected with the AIDS virus if preventive measures were not in place.

"It is now recognised that the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Asia and the Pacific region is at an early stage. This means that we have time, but time is running out," Werasit said at the launch of a forum to help national and community leaders contain the disease.

The Asia-Pacific Leadership Forum on HIV/AIDS and Development was launched in Brunei on the sides of a regional foreign ministers meeting to discuss security and developmental issues.

"In the next few years if we cannot contain the epidemic, the size of infected and affected populations in this region will dwarf those of other regions combined," Werasit said.

This would setback any economic gains. High infection rates in the region’s militaries could affect national security, Werasit added.

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), which is is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), weakens the body’s natural defences making it vulnerable to diseases. It is incurable.

The forum will coordinate efforts by governments, officials, community and religious leaders as well as the private sector to combat the spread of AIDS.

It will also provide them with advocacy, policy and information support in addition to opportunities for an exchange of experiences.

UN officials estimate that the Asia region faces an "explosive epidemic" of HIV-AIDS that could rival the devastation wreaked in Africa.

UNAIDS’ 2002 report said that at the end of 2001, some 6.6 million people in the Asia-Pacific region were living with HIV-AIDS, including one million adults and children who were newly infected with the virus that year.

"One million infections means 3,000 per day, or 120 per hour... These are shocking figures," Sandro Calvani, chairman of a UN working group on HIV-AIDS in Southeast Asia and the Pacific said last month in Bangkok.

Agence France-Presse, 1 Aug 2002
New ways proposed to curb HIV
Malaysia must address the worrying number of HIV-positive intravenous drug users who are major transmitters of HIV and AIDS.

United Nations International Drug Control Program regional representative for East Asia and the Pacific, Dr Sandro Calvani said the current drug control policies adopted by countries in Asia were inadequate as they did not address the issue of HIV-positive intravenous drug users.

He said the high priority given to abstinence-oriented treatment and HIV prevention limited to information and awareness would not suffice to contain or curb the epidemic among drug users.

Instead, he proposed four measures for successful intervention to control the spread of HIV among the drug users.

These include early intervention, making available needles and syringes, establishing more treatment and rehabilitation programs and reaching out with the involvement of the drug user community, he said at the UN Regional Task Force Meeting On Drugs and HIV/AIDS Vulnerability, launched today by Deputy Home Minister Datuk Zainal Abidin Zin.

Statistics last year showed that some 40,000 of the 200,000 drug users in the country were intravenous drug users of whom 33,919 were also HIV-positive.

The implementation of the required intervention in containing the spread of HIV, Calvani said, would cost the country some RM5 million annually.

Zainal, in his speech, said the number of people infected with HIV saw an increase of 4,500 cases a year, prompting the Government to allocate more resources for treatment and care.

The Government, Zainal added, in its effort to combat the spread of the virus had initiated strategic actions including national and regional co-operation in HIV/AIDS programs.

Also present at the event were National Dadah Agency director-general Datuk Wan Ibrahim Wan Ahmad, United Nations Development Program resident co-ordinator in Malaysia Maxine Olson, UN Development for AIDS officer Angeline Ackermans and the United States Agency for International Development representative Dr Carol Jenkins.

The two-day meeting was attended by more than 40 representatives from the UN, European Union and ministries and non-governmental organisations in the region., 17 Jul 2002
Global AIDS epidemic ’in early phase’
The AIDS epidemic is still in an early phase, and the number of cases of HIV in the worst-affected countries is climbing higher than previously believed possible, according to a major UNAIDS report.

About 68 million people are expected to die because of AIDS in the 45 most affected countries between 2000 and 2020. This is more than five times the 13 million deaths due to AIDS in the past 20 years in these countries.

Theories that the epidemic might level off in severely affected nations are being disproved, the report says. At present, less than four per cent of those in need of antiretroviral treatment in the developing world have access to those drugs.

"Even if exceptionally effective prevention, treatment and care programmes take hold immediately, the scale of the crisis means the human and socio-economic toll will remain significant for generations," the report says.

Some researchers had suggested that the AIDS epidemic might start to decline in the most devastated countries, as the number of people at risk decreased. But the latest figures do not support this, say the report’s authors. For example, in Zimbabwe, where one quarter of adults were HIV-positive in 1997, one third were infected by the end of 2001.

55 million deaths

The authors estimate that 55 million Africans will die prematurely because of AIDS by 2020. In Botswana, the country with the highest HIV rates in the world, almost 39 per cent of adults are living with HIV, up from 36 per cent two years ago.

They also warn that Asia is facing an "explosive epidemic" of HIV-AIDS that could rival the one devastating Africa. Asian governments and communities "are still not aware of the potential impact and consequences of the epidemic," said Anthony Lisle, head of UNAIDS’ Southeast Asia and Pacific team. About one million people in the region were newly infected with the virus in 2001.

"The trend looks like the same as the beginning of the epidemic in Africa," said Sandro Calvani, head of a UN working group on HIV/AIDS in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. "One million infections means 3000 per day, or 120 per hour. These are shocking figures."

In China, reported HIV infections rose nearly 70 per cent in just the first six months of 2001. Almost all cases of HIV/AIDS were previously transmitted through injecting drug use and unsafe blood practices. But the epidemic is now surging through heterosexual contact.

The HIV/AIDS 2002 report has been released in advance of the XIV International AIDS Conference in Barcelona. New Scientist will be filing daily reports starting from 8 July., 2 Jul 2002
Caccia ai signori dell’eroina
L’esercito di Bangkok nei santuari degli Wa, narcos protetti dalla giunta birmana. Per stroncare il traffico di droga

L’Espresso, 13 Jun 2002
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Countries Vow To Clamp Down On Amphetamines
Drug control officials from six Asian countries and the U.N. International Drug Control Program ended a regional meeting in Beijing yesterday with pledges to curb the boom in the consumption and trade in amphetamines, including Ecstasy and "ice," and vowing to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS through intravenous drug use.

"All the countries of the region still have very important problems," said UNDCP regional representative for East Asia and the Pacific Sandro Calvani. "There’s a growth in the spread of amphetamine-type stimulus. There is a growth of the vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. And these are really big concerns."

In the last five years, the region has become the world’s biggest producer of the drugs ice and ecstasy, and now is also the world’s largest consumer of amphetamines. While in the past, most of the locally-produced drugs simply were transported through the countries of the region, now much of the local production is consumed within the region, Agence France-Presse reports.

"There’s a rather vicious increasing speed of exchange between the supply of these substances and the demand for them, which really, over the past five years, has begun to spin faster and faster," said UNDCP demand reduction adviser Wayne Bazant. "Regional consumption (for amphetamines) is the primary consumption."

Officials from China, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam attended the event, which began Monday. This is the ninth annual event of its kind in the region, basing itself on a 1993 UNDCP-brokered agreement to increase regional cooperation efforts to fight the trade (AFP, May 22).

UNWIRE, 23 May 2002
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