About 70 Million Will Die Of AIDS
In Next 18 Years

By Jordan Lite

NEW YORK -- The new United Nations report on AIDS is a sobering collection of facts, estimates and projections of the current and future epidemic.
Among the report's findings: * Without expanded treatment and prevention, 68 million people will die of AIDS between 2000 and 2020 in the 45 countries most affected by the disease. That's five times the number of people who died in those countries over the first two decades of the epidemic.

* Sub-Saharan Africa remains by far the most devastated by AIDS, and the situation is worsening. In Botswana, the country with the world's highest HIV rate, nearly 39 percent of adults are living with the virus, an increase of 3 percent from two years ago. Nearly a third of Zimbabwean adults have the virus, and five additional countries in sub-Saharan Africa now have HIV prevalence rates higher than 20 percent.

* The disease is picking up speed in Central and West Africa, which until recently had maintained high but consistent rates of infection. Countries such as Cameroon and Nigeria, where infection rates were 2 percent or less in the late 1980s and early 1990s, now have infection rates of between 6 percent and 12 percent, and those may be underestimates. In Cameroon, the highest infection rates are among young adults ages 20 to 24.

* Up to 50 percent of new mothers could die in the sub-Saharan African countries with the highest HIV prevalence rates.

* In South Africa, which has the highest number of people living with HIV in the world, at the epidemic's peak, there will be 17 times as many deaths among people ages 15 to 34 than if AIDS did not exist.

* Of the 14 million children orphaned by AIDS worldwide, 80 percent, or 11 million, are in sub-Saharan Africa. The risks for these children are great: About half or more are forced to drop out of school when they can no longer afford to attend, and many are exploited as child laborers.
Despite the social and familial networks in Africa that would otherwise accommodate orphaned children, adults are typically reluctant to care for those orphaned by AIDS.

* Ukraine, with 250,000 HIV infections, is the most affected country in Eastern Europe, the region where AIDS is growing fastest. In Russia, more than 173,000 people were reported to have HIV in 2001, up from 10,993 in 1998. Yet U.N. officials believe the actual number of cases there is four times higher.

* Nearly 4 million of Asia's HIV patients are in India, and China's epidemic -- which stands at an underreported 850,000 -- could reach 10 million by 2010.

* Latin America follows Asia with the third-highest number of HIV cases, at 1.5 million. The Caribbean, however, ranks ahead of both Asia and Latin America in terms of rate of HIV infection, with 2.3 percent of its population infected, second only to sub-Saharan Africa, where 9 percent of people have the virus.

* The report warned of the need for renewed prevention efforts in the industrialized world, where epidemiologists have observed an increase in sexually transmitted infections. The trend is especially prominent among gay men, with rising numbers of sexually transmitted diseases occurring in cities such as Los Angeles; Amsterdam, Netherlands; London; and Sydney, Australia. In the United Kingdom, half of new infections in 2000 were from heterosexual sex, compared with 21 percent in 1990.
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