- LONDON (Reuters) - AIDS will
surpass the Black Death as the world's worst pandemic if the 40 million
people living with HIV/AIDS do not get life-prolonging drugs, a public
health physician said Friday.
- The illness has killed 25 million people since the early
1980s and an estimated 14,000 people are infected each day with HIV, which
destroys the immune system.
- Without antiretroviral drugs most people living with
HIV/AIDS will die, pushing the death toll beyond the 40 million killed
by the Black Death that ravaged Asia and Europe in the 14th century.
- The Black Death, or bubonic plague, was caused by a
carried by rats. Infection spread through rat flea bites.
- "Despite the impressive advances in medicine since
then, HIV/AIDS is likely to surpass the Black Death as the worst pandemic
ever," said Peter Lamptey, president of the Family Health
AIDS Institute a non-governmental agency based in Arlington,
- "If we don't improve access to treatment in the
next 10-15 years we could have as many as 65 million deaths from this
he said in a telephone interview.
- Ninety-five percent of new infections are in the world's
poorest countries where life-prolonging drugs are not available to most
- The illness has decreased life expectancy, increased
infant mortality and orphaned millions of children -- particularly in
Africa, home to more than 28 million HIV/AIDS sufferers.
- In a review of the latest information on AIDS, Lamptey
said a lack of international and national commitment, inadequate resources
and stigma and discrimination were stalling efforts to control the
- "We urgently need an effective and safe vaccine,
an affordable cure, and intensified prevention, care and support
he said in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal which focuses
on the AIDS catastrophe.
- AFFORDABLE DRUGS
- David Berwick, president and chief executive officer
of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Boston, Massachusetts,
international drugs companies which have slashed the prices of anti-AIDS
drugs, but said it was not enough.
- "The initial acts of generosity only set the stage
for what the world really needs: a dramatic, unprecedented, and unequivocal
decision by the boards and executives of several important pharmaceutical
companies to make their anti-HIV drugs free," he said in the
- But Richard Sykes, chairman of drug giant GlaxoSmithKline
Plc, said the key problem in getting anti-AIDS drugs to the world's poor
was not the cost of the drugs, but the lack of an infrastructure to deliver
and administer them.
- Malegapuru William Makgoba, president of the Medical
Research Council of South Africa, said he was convinced the only real hope
of combating the pandemic was an effective vaccine, which he believed would
be available in seven to 10 years.