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Asia Must Overcome HIV Stigma, Say Research Chiefs

"China is responding pretty well, their reponse has changed, they're putting treatment in place and doing research," he said.

"But people are still very much concerned about the human rights issues and how people with HIV are treated in Chinese society."

China estimated last year that it had 650,000 HIV cases, although UN officials estimate the actual number is now higher.

A recent paper in British medical journal The Lancet praised China's adoption of schemes such as needle exchanges and awareness campaigns among gay men, although the UN said there was still resistance to confronting the problem at a local level.

In India, where the estimated number of HIV cases was this month halved to 2.5 million, the government has set out to target the type of at-risk groups identified by Cooper.

"They're talking about upscaling programmes with marginalised groups," said Anjali Gopalan, head of the Naz Foundation, which works primarily with men.

"There was quite a bit of silence on them earlier."

Indians with HIV are still often treated as social outcasts, with reports of doctors shunning AIDS patients and HIV-positive children being barred from attending school with other pupils.

In Cambodia, one of the countries hit hardest by HIV/AIDS, the authorities are concerned that discrimination is helping the virus spread.

"It is difficult for us since stigma causes infected people not to speak out and this quietly spreads the infection," said Ly Peng Sun, deputy director of the National Centre for HIV/AIDS and Dermatology.

"Bias can prevent us from fighting the virus successfully."

Vietnam has introduced laws banning discrimination against people with HIV, although locals say it means some employers simply find a pretext to sack infected workers, rather than admitting it is because of their illness.

"If this new la
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