WHO Reports Another 5.3
Million New Cases Of AIDS
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA (Reuters) - An estimated 5.3 million people worldwide became infected with HIV/AIDS this year, but for the first time the number of new infections in sub-Saharan Africa seems to have stabilized, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.
However, AIDS morbidity (contraction of the fatal disease) and mortality rates in sub-Saharan Africa increased in 2000, offsetting the good news on infection rates, the United Nations health agency said.
The impoverished region of some 40 countries remains hardest hit by the deadly pandemic, accounting for an estimated 3.8 million or 72 percent of the new cases during the past year, WHO said in its Weekly Epidemiological Record.
Worldwide, the number of adults and children living with HIV/AIDS is estimated to reach 36.1 million people by year-end, split almost equally between men and women.
"...HIV/AIDS continues to spread in all regions of the world,'' the Geneva-based WHO said. ``It is also estimated that during 2000, 5.3 million people (including 600,000 children aged less than 15 years old) became infected.''
By year-end, an estimated 21.8 million adults and children will have died from the fatal disease worldwide since the pandemic's onset two decades ago, it added. The toll includes an estimated three million victims this year.
WHO and UNAIDS are to launch their full annual AIDS report on Tuesday.
Sub-Saharan Africa Worst Hit
Sub-Saharan African countries, where transmission is primarily by heterosexual contact, account for 25.3 million of the total 36.1 million living victims.
WHO painted a mixed picture of the region, home to about one-tenth of the world's total population.
``For the first time, the estimated number of new infections in sub-Saharan Africa appears to have stabilized,'' WHO said.
``An estimated 3.8 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2000 as opposed to a total of four million during 1999.''
But it added: ``The positive sign of a decrease in new infections in sub-Saharan Africa is offset by the increase in AIDS morbidity and mortality.''
Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast and Uganda have reported the highest number of cumulative cases on the continent.
Sex Trade, Drugs Boost Asian Infections
Asia and the Pacific countries follow with a total estimated 6.4 million adults and children living with HIV/AIDS, including more than 900,000 new cases this year, WHO said.
``Sex trade, use of illicit drugs, rates of sexually transmitted infections and large population movements continue to increase in this region,'' it added.
New Infections Steady In Rich Countries
Thousands of people continue to become infected in North America, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Yet the availability of anti-retroviral drugs in these industrialized countries continues to slow the virus's progression to full-blown AIDS and death, according to the agency.
However, the number of new HIV infections in these countries has remained ``relatively constant'' over the past years, it said.
Canada and the United States have an estimated 920,000 people living with HIV/AIDS, including an estimated 45,000 new cases this year, according to WHO.
Western Europe, home to 540,000 victims, had an estimated 30,000 new infections. Australia and New Zealand have an estimated 15,000 people living with the virus or disease.
New infections in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, mostly among injecting drug users, jumped by an estimated 250,000, causing a 60 percent rise in the regional total of people living with HIV/AIDS to 700,000, according to WHO.
North Africa and the Middle East had an estimated 80,000 new cases last year, bringing the regional total of infections to 400,000 adults and children, it added.
Latin America, led by Brazil, has 1.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS, while the Caribbean has nearly 40,000.

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