Fewer than 10 percent of the Asia-Pacific's estimated 8.5 million people who live with HIV know are aware of their status, the UN said Monday, urging the region's governments to boost access to health services.
"With so few people aware of their status, efforts to prevent new infections and treat those who are positive are becoming more difficult," said a joint statement from the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children's Fund - UNICEF - and the U.N.'s coordinating body against the disease - UNAIDS.
Lack of testing and counseling are major obstacles in the prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDS in the region, they said, calling on the region's governments to boost access to health services.
The U.N. agencies released the statement at the opening of a three-day conference of health experts, scientists and community activists about the HIV/AIDS situation in the region. The meeting is being held in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.
WHO regional director Shigeru Omi said in the statement that awareness of a person's HIV status is a public health and human rights imperative. It leads to life-extending treatment, care and support services, and serves as evidence for prevention interventions, he said.
There are an estimated 64,000 children living with HIV in the region who need treatment, but only one in five of them are receiving it, the statement said, adding nearly all them are in three countries - Cambodia, India and Thailand.
"By increasing access to early diagnosis of HIV in infants and children, we are in a better position to improve the quality of life for children who test positive by providing better care, support and treatment," said Anupama Rao Singh, director of UNICEF's East Asia and Pacific Regional Office.