Stark warnings greet AIDS congress
4 July 2002 10:00 GMT
delegates gathering in Barcelona for the start of the world's
biggest AIDS congress on Sunday received a stark reminder this
week of the huge problems still to be confronted if they are to
halt the spreading pandemic. The disease, which looks set to claim
another 60 million lives or more before 2020, is still in its
early phase, warned a new report from the Joint United Nations
Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
"HIV/AIDS is spreading rapidly in parts of the world where the
epidemic had seemed stable or was previously confined to groups at
highest risk of infection," noted Peter Piot, executive director
"Nations with accelerating epidemics must move quickly to adopt
proven responses from countries that have succeeded in turning the
epidemic around," he said when he presented the report to the 2002
session of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, in New
York on Tuesday.
"Access to adequate care and treatment is a right, not a
privilege," stated Piot. "Although real progress has been made in
lowering the price of antiretroviral therapy in the developing
world, far greater action is needed by both governments and the
private sector to ensure that treatment reaches those in greatest
HIV prevalence is climbing higher than previously thought
possible in the worst-affected countries and is continuing to
spread rapidly into new populations in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean
and Eastern Europe, says the report, which is subtitled "The
Barcelona Report" and was released in advance of the XIVth
International AIDS conference.
In Botswana, the country with the highest HIV infection rates
in the world, almost 39% of all adults are now living with HIV, up
from less than 36% two years ago.
Without drastically expanded prevention and treatment efforts
in the 45 most affected countries, 68 million will die of AIDS
between 2000 and 2020, which is more than five times the number of
deaths during the previous two decades, notes the report.
In South Africa alone, there will be 17 times as many deaths
among people aged between 15 and 34 than there would have been
without AIDS, estimates suggest.
The report also notes how, in China, Indonesia, the Russian
Federation and Western and Central Africa, HIV has moved beyond
groups considered to be at highest risk of infection and is now
spreading at an accelerated pace in the wider population.
"The success around the globe on preventing infection, and
treating those already infected, demonstrates that it is possible
to make progress against HIV/AIDS," said Piot. "But so far, these
countries are the exception, and not the rule. In order to
overcome this epidemic on a global scale, the international
community must muster even greater political commitment, action,
and above all, resources."
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