- BANGKOK (Reuters) - Nine times as many Thais have died of AIDS than officially
reported, according to a joint study released Tuesday, and the worst is
still to come.
- Alessio Panza, head of the European Union's
AIDS program in Bangkok and one of study's authors, said it showed more
than 222,000 Thais had died of the disease since 1985, against just 24,667
deaths reported by the Public Health Ministry.
- The study also estimates more than 270,000
Thais have the disease, three times more than the official estimate of
- It projects the total number of AIDS
deaths in the country will reach 286,000 by 2000.
- "Preliminary calculations show that
the vast majority of AIDS-related mortality in Thailand is still to come,"
- The study was conducted by the European
Union and the Institute of Population Studies at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn
University. It based its findings on changes in overall mortality statistics
between 1989 and 1996.
- Panza attributed the discrepancies between
the study and the official figures to "AIDS fatigue" and the
stigma the disease still carries, which leads to causes of death going
unreported by health workers and families of victims.
- "Under-reporting is a worldwide
phenomenon and is related to the resources allocated to the health system,"
he said. "Even countries with a lot of resources have under-reporting."
- "The problem is that many medical
staff don't consider collecting the data a useful activity, so they either
don't do it or invent the figures."
- The report was co-written by Godfried
Van Griensven, an affiliate professor at Chulalongkorn, and Suwanee Surasiengsunk,
an assistant professor at the university's department of statistics.
- The former is working on a project with
the Health Ministry and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
- A summary of the study said "excessive"
increases in mortality occurred between 1989 and 1996 and could be observed
especially in northern Thailand.
- It found the highest increases occurred
in 20- to 24-year-old females in the northern province of Chiang Rai, where
deaths related to AIDS rose from 0.83 per 1,000 females in 1990 to 8.46
percent in 1996.
- Many of Thailand's large numbers of sex
workers come from Chiang Rai province, which borders Laos and Myanmar (formerly
- The study said that nationally in this
age group, 25 percent of all deaths were attributable to AIDS, while in
the 25 to 29 age group the figure was 40 to 50 percent.
- "In the north, 80 percent of deaths
in the 25 to 29 age groups is attributable to AIDS," it added.
- The study extrapolated from its findings
that in 1996 a total of 1 million Thais were infected with HIV, the virus
that causes AIDS, not far off the Health Ministry estimate of 800,000.
- However, Panza said there was evidence
to show the number of new HIV infections had sharply declined between 1993
- Tests on new military recruits, for example,
showed infection rates of less than 2 percent of those tested in 1996 compared
with approximately 4 percent in 1993. Tests conducted on pregnant women
also showed declines, he said.
- However, since 1996 there had been a
troublesome increase in the infection trend in parts of northern Thailand,
apparently due to increased use of intravenous drugs, he said.
- The far north of Thailand forms part
of the Golden Triangle, one of world's leading sources of opium and its
derivative heroin, most of which originates in Myanmar.
- By DAVID BRUNNSTROM, Reuters