One Filipino Contracts HIV Every 1.5 Hours: Study

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One Filipino Contracts HIV Every 1.5 Hours: Study

Also: Illegal immigrant woes in Malaysia and Thailand, bear bile slump in Vietnam. Thursday ASEAN links.

According to Ferchito Avelino, the executive director of the Philippine National AIDS Council, one Filipino contracts HIV every one hour and 25 minutes. The latest statistic arrives as HIV cases rapidly increase across the country – with Avelino attributing the “fast and furious” rise to homosexual intercourse and intravenous drug use. There were 449 new cases reported in July alone.

Avelino added that HIV cases in the Philippines have increased by 523 percent between 2008 and 2012. He called for increased government spending to assist in combating the rise, especially in at-risk areas such as Manila, Angeles City, and Cebu.

“We need to prioritize and to scale up response in a more coordinated manner,” Avelino told The Philippine Daily Inquirer. “What’s important is our government, whether national or local, should lead in the response and be able to accept the fact that we need to do something and we have to do it fast.”

Malaysia’s government will be cracking down on a different social problem: illegal immigrants. Beginning Sunday, Malaysia’s Immigration Department will launch a three-month operation that seeks to deport an estimated half-million illegal aliens. The operation, initiated by security concerns and perceived criminal activity by undocumented foreigners, will involve 135,000 enforcement personnel.

“Southeast Asia's third-largest economy is a magnet for migrant workers from poorer neighbors Indonesia, Bangladesh, Mynamar, Vietnam, Nepal and elsewhere, who fill low-paid construction, factory, and plantation jobs,” said Channel NewsAsia.

Malaysia isn’t alone. Thailand is also concerned about illegal immigrants after 500 Thai visas went missing from a consular office in Laos. After Thailand’s Immigration Bureau found two illegally-issued visa stamps at the consulate-general office in Savannakhet, deeper investigation revealed a total of 500 missing visa stickers.

Thai authorities are unsure if local employees or ministry officials were involved in the scheme. The incident is not the first time that visas have gone missing in a neighboring country. “300 visa stamps were missing from the Thai embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and many had been used to enter or leave Thailand,” reported The Bangkok Post. “The [Immigration Bureau] expects to launch its electronic visa system in October 2014, on which an image of each applicant will be shown, to help reduce illegal use of Thai visas.”

Meanwhile, in Vietnam, some merchants are having problems of their own. Bear bile – the digestive juices stored in a bear’s liver and gallbladder – is losing demand as activists speak out against the unconventional practice of using it for medicinal purposes.

While the sale of bear bile was banned in Vietnam in 2005, enterprising farmers continue to sell it on the black market.

“Officials microchipped 4,000 bears to ensure that no more were taken from the wild after the old ones in captivity died, but poor government supervision allowed the farms to continue,” said DPA News Agency. “The drop in demand is partly due to successful public awareness campaigns, pushed by non-governmental organizations. The price of bile has fallen from $16 to less than $1 per milliliter this year.”

Some men believe that bear bile will enhance their virility. Scientists, on the other hand, have said that bear bile destroys the human liver and kidneys – leading to hospitalizations and death.

J.T. Quigley is assistant editor of The Diplomat.