AIDS SWEEPS THROUGH EASTERN EUROPE
12:06 29 November 01
The global AIDS epidemic is rising fastest in Eastern Europe, according to the latest annual report published by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization.
The reported HIV infection rates in the Russian Federation have increased by 15 times in three years and the real number of cases may be much higher. In the Ukraine, the worst affected country in the region, over one per cent of the total population are HIV positive.
Three-quarters of all east European infections are caused by the sharing of needles by injecting drug addicts. But unsafe sexual practices are also a factor - syphilis is now almost 40 times more common in Russia than in 1987.
"HIV is spreading rapidly throughout the entire Eastern European region," warned Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS. "It is unequivocally the most devastating disease we have ever faced and it will get worse before it gets better."
African life expectancy
But while the rates are rising worryingly fast in eastern Europe, the total numbers remain far lower than in sub-Saharan Africa. This region contains 28 million of the 40m people now living with HIV.
In Swaziland, Botswana and some parts of South Africa, more than 30 per cent of pregnant women are HIV-positive. In Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique and Swaziland, the average life expectancy is less than 40 years - without AIDS, it would be over 60 years.
However, there are some glimmers of hope, says the report. AIDS incidence is being reduced in the hard-hit countries of Uganda and Cambodia. Poland was also cited as a success story. AIDS incidence is very low and has been blocked by aggressive promotion of needle exchange schemes and condoms - a significant step for a staunchly Catholic country.
UNAIDS/WHO 2001 estimates
Global of people with HIV/AIDS: 40 million (2.7m are children under 15 years)
New HIV infections in 2001: 5 million (800,000 children)
AIDS deaths in 2001: 3 million (580,000 children)
Regional totals of people with HIV/AIDS
Sub-Saharan Africa - 28,100,000
South and Southeast Asia - 6,100,000
Latin America - 1,400,000
Eastern Europe and Central Asia - 1,000,000
East Asia and Pacific - 1,000,000
North America - 940,000
Western Europe - 560,000
North Africa and Middle East - 440,000
Caribbean - 420,000
Australia and New Zealand - 15,000