Low Prevalence of HIV in Some Asia Pacific Countries

Subject: Immunology
Pages: 2
Words: 482
Reading time:
2 min

Of the Asia Pacific countries with populations of more than 10 million people, very few have escaped significant epidemics of HIV. To date, however Bangladesh, Japan, the Philippines and South Korea are four very different countries with low prevalence. Posit a brief explanation why each of these countries has a low prevalence rate as to why.

Bangladesh’s first case of HIV was reported in 1989. Since then, the prevalence rate has been less than 1%, with high levels of infection detected in injecting drug users (over 7%). Being a Muslim nation, the culture in this country is highly conservative. Women are required to abstain from sex prior to marriage, and breaking this rule usually has high consequences and may shame one’s family. Another important factor is that the Bangladesh government recognized the HIV threat early and chose to act through implementing various HIV programs and acting as a catalyst for the entry of various non-governmental organizations.

During the time HIV was first being discovered, Japan was highly governed by a culture that held respect and class in very high opinion. Premarital sex was frowned upon, and marriage values were held in high regard. These factors ensured that HIV took time to enter Japanese society. After HIV was discovered in other parts of Asia, the government embarked on intensive prevention programs. The use of condoms was widely promoted, and people were educated about the risk posed by this disease. The government also undertook to reduce the sex trade in the country, and in areas where this was impossible, education and mandatory testing were carried out. Stigmatization of homosexuality may also have played a role in curbing HIV spread in the country since most men did not engage and chose to hide their sexuality.

In the Philippines, the main reason why HIV prevalence is low has been linked with widespread circumcision practices. Research has shown that circumcision may help prevent the contraction of HIV. In the Philippines, it was also noted that most of the people who were infected were migrant workers from neighboring countries. Although prostitution is relatively high in the country, over 65% of sex workers use condoms and usually have very few clients, about 3 per week.

Finally, South Korea has, for a very long time, had a very restrictive culture. Inappropriate sexual activity was not only frowned upon by society but also by law. The country also imposed mandatory testing on all sex workers, homosexuals, and foreigners staying in the country after cases of HIV began being detected in Asia. The South Korean culture is also highly conservative; hence restriction of inappropriate sexual contact, premarital sex, and prostitution has ensured low HIV prevalence in the country. These two main steps have ensured that HIV prevalence in the country has stayed low.