AIDS still ravages Africa, UN says

 

AIDS still ravages Africa, UN says

 

GENEVA, June 27 (Reuters) - The HIV/AIDS epidemic

continues to ravage Africa, where one in five adults is

living with the deadly virus in some states, the United

Nations said on Tuesday.

 

In Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana, at least

one in every two 15-year-old boys will die of AIDS,

according to a grim report by the UNAIDS programme.

 

In the West, gay men in New York, San Francisco,

Sydney and London have become complacent, engaging

in unprotected sex, often with multiple partners, the report

warned.

 

But it saw glimmers of hope, noting HIV/AIDS rates had

stabilised in most high-income countries due to

awareness campaigns and better treatment. And infection

rates had dropped in a few developing nations, including

Thailand and Uganda.

 

"A lot of progress has been made, but it is unfortunately

not everywhere," Peter Piot, executive director of the joint

U.N. Programme on HIV/AIDS, told a news conference in

Geneva.

 

"In the West...the impact of treatment has been

spectacular. Mortality has really collapsed from AIDS.

There is really a much better and longer life for people

with HIV."

 

70 PERCENT OF VICTIMS IN AFRICA

 

The picture in sub-Saharan Africa was very different.

There, four million people were infected last year alone --

making up the bulk of the 5.4 million new cases

worldwide.

 

"The lifetime risk of dying from AIDS has become really

incredibly high in several countries," Piot said.

 

In South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe, today's 15 year

olds are more likely than not to die of AIDS.

 

Africa will need between $1.6 billion and $2.6 billion to

step up prevention programmes just to contain the

epidemic, said Piot, who backed debt-relief for the

hardest-hit countries.

 

AIDS is the fourth biggest killer worldwide. About 18.8

million people have perished since 1983, including 2.8

million last year, according to the report.

 

"Nearly twice that many -- 34.3 million -- are now living

with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Barring a miracle,

most of these will die over the next decade or so," the

report said.

 

The epidemic has orphaned about 13.2 million children.

 

About 24.5 million or 70 percent of victims are in

sub-Saharan Africa. The highest number -- 4.2 million --

are in in South Africa, the region's most populous country.

 

The report listed 16 countries where over 10 percent of the

15-49 age-group were infected with HIV: Botswana,

Burundi, Central African Republic, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Ivory

Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia,

Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

 

In seven countries, all in the southern cone of Africa, at

least one adult in five was living with the virus. Hardest hit

was Botswana at 35.8 percent, followed by Swaziland,

Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Zambia, South Africa and Namibia.

 

ASIAN RATES MISLEADING

 

In Asia, only three countries -- Cambodia, Myanmar and

Thailand -- have rates exceeding one percent HIV infection

among 15-49-year-olds, according to the 135-page U.N.

report. But even low rates mean that huge numbers of

Asians live with the virus.

 

In India, for example, only seven adults in 1,000 are

infected, but this translates into a total 3.7 million people,

more than in any other country except South Africa. In

China, an estimated 500,000 people live with HIV/AIDS,

mainly drug users.

 

"It may be just a matter of time before infections reach a

critical level...Certainly there is no room for

complacency," the report said.

 

Sexual behaviour was a major cause of HIV infection in

much of Latin America and the Caribbean, but the region's

macho culture often led to neglect of the problem.

 

In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the HIV epidemic

was concentrated among injecting drug users. An

outbreak among users around Moscow last year resulted

in 16,000 new infections, more than in the previous six

years combined.

 

An estimated 850,000 Americans have HIV/AIDS, with an

average of 40,000 more joining them each year, according

to Piot. Some 49,000 Canadians are currently infected.

 

In Europe, France has the highest number of people living

with HIV/AIDS (130,000), followed by Spain (120,000) and

Italy (95,000).

 

 

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