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Wired News on September 17, 1995

Attn: Burma Newsreaders
Re: Wired News on September 17, 1995

AIDS the "enemy" of economic progress in Asia

      By Deborah Charles 

    CHIANG MAI, Thailand (Reuter) - The massive cost of  fighting AIDS is
threatening economic development in Asia, the world's most populous region,
economists told an AIDS conference Monday. 

    ``Let there be no misunderstanding. The AIDS epidemic is the enemy of
Asian economic progress ... it endangers the development of countries,'' Myo
Thant, senior economist with the Asian Development Bank, told the Third
International Conference on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific. 

    Health experts at the conference, which will be held in this northern
Thai town until Thursday, have said the number of cases of AIDS and the human
immunodeficiency virus which causes it are skyrocketing in Asia. 

    The region is seen overtaking Africa as the epicenter of the lethal
disease by the turn of the century. By 2000 it is forecast to account for
nearly 25 percent of all HIV infections, which the World Health Organization
(WHO) projects at 40 million globally. 

    Given that young people, who are the most economically active population
group, are the most at risk, a big rise in the number of cases will hurt even
thriving Asian economies. 

    ``The impact of the epidemic is pervasive and will affect all social
strata and all sectors of the economy,'' said Peter Godwin, chief of the U.N.
Development Program's HIV Project. 

    Neither Godwin nor Myo Thant would put a monetary figure on the economic
impact of AIDS and HIV in the region, but said the economic impact would be
most acute for the region's poorer, less developed countries. 

    ``The costs of illness and death will be greatest for those least able to
deal with these; that is, the poorest Asia-Pacific countries,'' Godwin said. 

    ``Some countries are able to cope with it,'' Myo Thant told reporters.
``Some countries like Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar (Burma) cannot cope. They are
trying their best but they just don't have the capability right now. In Asia
the poor don't know how to protect themselves. They don't have access to
information and once they get (AIDS) they suffer more than the rich.'' 

    He said economic effects of the AIDS epidemic are felt more indirectly
due to the loss of labor and income, and because of secondary effects such as
a decline in tourism due to fears of contracting the disease. 

    In terms of a ``human development index,'' Godwin said that, in general,
every 1 percent increase in HIV incidence results in a country losing 2.2
years of development. Thailand, with one of the regions's most serious AIDS
and HIV problems, will have lost nine years' development by 2005 because of
the disease, he said. 

    The human development index incorporates several variables such as life
expectancy, adult literacy, school enrollment and Gross Domestic Product in
establishing a measure. 

    Both Godwin and Myo Thant urged governments to act now in order to stem
the economic costs of an even larger epidemic. 

    ``I strongly believe that much of the confusion in policymakers' minds
 ... has to do with the fact that they do not perceive the HIV/AIDS epidemic
to be a problem in serious need of their attention,'' Godwin said. ``If they
do not act to respond effectively ... and ... urgently it will be at the
peril of their nations' hard-won increases in human development. 

    ``How many countries are prepared to throw away five or 10 years of human
development, just because HIV/AIDS seems to be too insignificant, too
difficult or too sensitive to handle?'' 


Reut11:39 09-18-95

Burmese Students Urge SLORC to Release Leader

      BANGKOK, Sept 17 (Reuter) - Burmese dissident students in exile on
Sunday demanded that Burma's ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council
(SLORC) hold talks with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and release a
student leader detained six years ago. 

    ``We would like to urge the international community to join us to demand
for the unconditionally release of Min Ko Naing and all political prisoners
in Burma,'' the All Burma Students' Democratic Front said in a statement
given to Reuters on Sunday. 

   It also demanded that the country's military rulers hold talks with Aung
San Suu Kyi. 

   SLORC took power in September, 1988, and the miitary crushed a nationwide
pro-democracy protests. 

   SLORC later rounded up and detained thousands of political prisoners,
including Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, who was freed
from house arrest in July. 

    The student group said more than 3,000 political prisoners were still in
Burmese jails. 

    Ming Ko Naign, 33, was the student leader from Rangoon University who led
the mass protests against the military. He was arrested in March, 1989, and
sentenced to 20 years in jail. 

Reut03:37 09-17-95
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