Asia and the Pacific

BBC World Service
10 January 1998

Mongolia's AIDS Fears
Duncan Hewitt

Beijing -- The Mongolian government says it is taking measures to calm fears about the spread of HIV Aids following the discovery of the country's second confirmed case of the virus. The latest case involved a prostitute who had reportedly been infected by a foreign visitor. Opposition politicians called on the government to introduce compulsory testing for all foreigners entering the country. The Ministry of Health ruled this out, but said it would step up anti-Aids campaigns. Duncan Hewitt reports from Beijing:

Until last week Mongolia had only one officially confirmed case of HIV Aids, but experts estimate the real figure could be as high as one hundred. Such fears have been highlighted by the news that an HIV positive Cameroon national was expelled from the country earlier this week after sleeping with four prostitutes in the capital Ulan Bator.

One of these women has now been confirmed HIV positive. Test results for the others have not yet been revealed.

Opposition politicians on Thursday held a press conference urging the government to impose a quarantine on an estimated eighty of the prostitutes' other clients and they called for the introduction of a state of health emergency, along with compulsory HIV tests on all foreign visitors. But this appears to have been ruled out.

Mongolia's Health Minister appeared on television to urge citizens to take their own precautions and he announced details of a new AIDs awareness campaign. UN officials in Mongolia say the authorities have long experience in dealing with sexually transmitted diseases but they're still trying to move from a Soviet-style treatment-based approach to the kind of educational campaign needed to tackle HIV.

Particular concern has been raised about the dangers to Ulan Bator's many street children if they become involved in prostitution. The UN says it intends to give Mongolia more condoms, along with disposable syringes amidst reports of doctors re-using syringes because they're in short supply.

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