Magazine article World Watch

HIV/AIDS Pandemic Is Worsening

Magazine article World Watch

HIV/AIDS Pandemic Is Worsening

Article excerpt

Since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, the number of people infected with HIV - the virus that causes AIDS - has climbed to nearly 50 million. Nearly 6 million people were infected in 1998, and 2.5 million people died from AIDS. (Each year since 1980 there has been a record number of new infections and AIDS deaths.) Cumulative AIDS deaths stand at over 14 million, and with 34 million people currently living with HIV, the number of deaths is expected to keep climbing.

The region worst hit by the epidemic has been sub-Saharan Africa. Crippled by poverty and a lack of widespread prevention efforts, the region has been the site of 7 out of every 10 of the world's cases of HIV infection, and 9 out of every 10 deaths due to AIDS. In a dozen African nations, at least 10 percent of the adult population now carries the virus. In the two hardest-hit nations, Zimbabwe and Botswana, one of every four adults is infected, and the average life expectancy has been cut by nearly 20 years.

In Asia, the rate of new infections remains relatively low, but the total number of people infected is expanding rapidly. The rate of infection is fairly low in India, for example, but with nearly 1 billion people, the country is home to an estimated 4 million infected individuals - more than any other nation.

Since 1994, the number of people living with HIV in Eastern Europe has surged nearly sevenfold. General collapse of economic and health care systems - on top of soaring drug use - has kindled the epidemic in the former Soviet bloc.

With the help of antiviral drugs that prolong the onset of AIDS, the number of AIDS deaths has declined in the United States and Western Europe, though new HIV infections are rising steadily as risky behaviors persist. In the United States, 64 percent of new infections occur in blacks and Hispanics, who account for just 24 percent of the population. …

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