THE Asian tigers are imperilled; the booming economies of Asia are facing imminent collapse due to the threat of an AIDS epidemic.

Medical experts, academics and social workers attending the Third International Conference on AIDS in Asia in the Thai city of Chiang Mai predict that by the end of the century, the region will surpass Africa as the area most stricken by the disease.

Already leading the world in new HIV infections, the region is expected to suffer more than the rest of the world put together by the year 2000.

According to United Nations Development Programme figures, India - with 4 million cases by the turn ofthe century - is likely to become the continent'S HIV capital.

Thailand, which has 800,000 to a million of Asia's 3 million HIV carriers, stands to lose us $9 billion in health care costs and lost production by the end of the century, besides about us $1.95 billion in tourism revenue annually. At this rate, analysts fear an undermining of the region's economic growth if serious steps to prevent the onslaught were not taken immediately.

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