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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

World Marches to Mark AIDS Day

LONDON -- In Rome, taxi drivers distributed AIDS leaflets Sunday. Across Thailand, gas stations offered free condoms. In South Africa, Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu went on TV to urge people to practice safe sex.

Countries marked World AIDS Day with renewed vigor after the UN agency on AIDS reported an accelerating death toll, with nearly a quarter of the 6.4 million AIDS deaths to date occurring in the past year.

In 1996, 3.1 million people were infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, bringing the total number of people with HIV or AIDS to 22.6 million, UNAIDS said Thursday.

In Asia, the site of an AIDS explosion, according to UNAIDS, the war on the disease got graphic.

Activists posted photos of an emaciated AIDS victim in Beijing's central Zhongshan park, near the ancient imperial palace, along with posters that read, "The risks of careless sex and lifestyle hygiene.''

Chinese health officials have warned that more than 1 million Chinese -- 10 times the estimated present number -- could be infected with HIV by 2000 if preventive measures are not taken.

In Thailand, which has an active sex industry, 420 gas stations distributed 3 million condoms to customers, with the warning, "Be careful of AIDS when feeling naughty.''

The health ministry and the state-owned Petroleum Authority of Thailand sponsored the program. An estimated 800,000 of Thailand's 60 million people have the HIV virus, and some 50,000 more have died of AIDS.

In the Philippine capital of Manila, about 250 government officials, activists and at least four HIV patients joined in the two-kilometer "First National AIDS Walk.''

Photo exhibitions carried the message in India, which volunteer organizations say has Asia's worst AIDS epidemic, with an estimated 1 million or more HIV cases. Charity organizations sponsored marches in Bombay.

More than 400 people gathered in Tokyo for the lighting of a six-meter tree bearing more than 12,000 red ribbons, symbol of the fight against AIDS.

In central Paris, several hundred AIDS activists marched with signs reading, "AIDS: The Epidemic Isn't Over'' and "Zero: The Number of AIDS Survivors.''