- GENEVA (Reuters) -- India,
where an estimated 4.5 million people carry the HIV virus, faces an AIDS
"tidal wave" and may have already overtaken South Africa as the
world's most infected country, health experts warned on Tuesday.
- China, where officials said at the weekend that AIDS
was spreading rapidly, is also a major concern with 840,000 estimated HIV
infections amid unreliable data in some areas, they added.
- Senior officials from the World Health Organization (WHO),
UNAIDS agency and Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria were
speaking at a news conference to launch WHO's annual World Health Report.
- The WHO's report warned the world was not ready for the
full social and economic impact of AIDS, which has killed more than 20
million people in the last quarter century.
- The United Nations agency said that unless nations pulled
together to defeat it, AIDS would destroy any hope of a better life for
tens of millions, including non-sufferers, worldwide.
- South Africa has an estimated five million HIV sufferers
-- the highest number worldwide -- against an official 4.5 million reported
in India, according to Richard Feachem, executive director of the Geneva-based
- "I believe the Indian statistics are underestimated
and that already India has considerably more infected people than South
Africa," Feachem said.
- "What is much more alarming is looking at the future.
With an epidemic growing so fast and a large population, it will become
far, far larger than any epidemic in any other country," he added.
- India is the world's second-most populous nation, after
China, with more than one billion people.
- Despite the threat, India had not put in place the necessary
policies for preventing, testing and treating sufferers which were needed
"if India is going to turn around the tidal wave of HIV/AIDS which
is breaking over it," Feachem said.
- TURNAROUND IN CHINA
- China's State Council, or cabinet, on Sunday ordered
urgent measures including school education and public awareness campaigns
to help keep the deadly virus in check.
- Lee Jong-Wook, WHO director-general who recently held
talks with senior officials in Beijing, said China appeared determined
to confront AIDS.
- Chinese health authorities were working to fulfil a pledge
to provide treatment free of charge, he said, adding: "This will obviously
take some time until it is put in place, but it is very encouraging news
and a turnaround."
- Peter Piot, head of UNAIDS, said China's estimate of
840,000 sufferers seemed to be on the right order of magnitude.
- "I would say it is safe to assume it is around one
million," Piot said. "The data are quite good for some provinces,
but not so reliable for others."
- The WHO report said the world at large was "far
from ready for what is to come" -- catastrophic social and economic
consequences for many communities and countries if the epidemic continued
- The 170-page report, entitled "Changing History,"
is to be presented at the agency's annual assembly next week.
- Of the six million people in developing countries who
need anti-retroviral therapy, only 400,000 got it last year, it said.
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