How is Thailand doing in its fight against AIDS?
Amazingly well. In the 1980s, Thailand was widely accused of ignoring its AIDS problem to avoid scaring off tourists. But according to a new World Bank report, Thailand is now the model for the developing world on how to prevent transmission of the HIV virus, and how to bring continued life and hope to HIV-positive patients.
Roughly half a million Thais are HIV-positive. Of that group, 78,000 have developed full-blown AIDS, which can be treated with anti-retroviral drugs. Thanks to the government, dedicated nongovernment organizations (such as Medecins sans Frontieres and the Thai Red Cross) and an effective network of district-level hospitals and rural health clinics, more than 90% of those AIDS patients are getting free anti-retroviral drugs.
In contrast, according to the report, the world has a total of five to six million AIDS patients in need of those drugs. Only 13 percent -- 700,000-- are getting them.
The triple drug “cocktail”—which includes stavudine, lamivudine and nevirapine—is produced domestically and costs the government $30 per month per patient.
The report emphasizes that Thailand’s success in treating AIDS patients is only possible because of its earlier efforts in education and AIDS prevention from 1991—something that China and India must do now if they have any hope of getting their AIDS problems under control. Without such efforts, the report concludes, Thailand would have had 7.7 million HIV cases (and 850,000 AIDS cases) last year—14 times more than it has today. Treating that volume of patients would have cost the country an additional $18.6 billion.
Since Thailand’s first AIDS case in September 1984, 1 million Thais have been infected with HIV and more than 400,000 have died of the disease.