- UNITED NATIONS(Reuters) - Aids cases
soared worldwide to 30 million adults and children in 1997 with researchers
saying they had grossly underestimated the rate of infection, now at about
16,000 a day.
- The sharp climb -- from 22.6 million
people in 1996 -- is due to new methods of collecting data as well as an
actual 19 percent increase in the results, said a report by UNAIDS, a joint
program of U.N. specialized agencies, released Wednesday.
- But the increase, the survey said, is
still 19 percent in 1997 over 1996 for all people infected with HIV or
victims of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), even when the new
reporting methods are taken into account.
- ``We are now realizing that rates of
HIV transmission have been grossly underestimated -- particularly in sub-Saharan
Africa, where the bulk of infections have been concentrated,'' said Dr
Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS.
- ``If current transmission rates hold
steady, by the year 2000, the number of people living with HIV or AIDS
will soar to 40 million,'' he said.
- In 1997 alone, people who became infected
for the first time swelled from 3.1 million children and adults to 5.8
million, an actual increase of 9 percent, according to the new estimates.
- The report said that some 2.3 million
people died of AIDS in 1997 -- a 50 percent increase over 1996. Nearly
half those deaths were women and 460,000 were children under 15.
- For children, the report estimates that
1,600 under 15 are infected with HIV every day compared to 1,000 children
a day last year.
- The new figures show that the number
of people estimated to be living with HIV or AIDS include 20.6 million
in sub-Saharan Africa, 6 million in South and Southeast Asia and 1.3 million
in Latin America and 530,000 in Western Europe.
- The worst affected is sub-Sahara Africa
where HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) cases increased by an alarming
7.4 percent among people between 15 and 49 years of age.
- In contrast the rate of new AIDS cases
is expected to drop about 30 percent in Western Europe in 1997, with only
Portugal and Greece still showing substantial rises.
- And new figures from the United States
indicate the rate of AIDS will drop by 11 percent in 1997 after decreasing
6 percent last year.
- The survey, however, still pointed to
many countries in the world where reporting was faulty or non-existent,
making it unclear how long the new estimates would be valid.
- Among the 30 million people currently
living with HIV, most of them have no idea they are infected, particularly
in the developing world where the epidemic is concentrated.
- HIV testing in many countries is done
mostly for purposes of surveillance rather than treatment, which is scarce.
Few people have any hope of treatment, so they feel little incentive to
get tested, the report said.
- Southern African continues to be the
worst affected area. South Africa estimated 2.4 million of its citizens
were living with HIV. Botswana figures have doubled and Zimbabwe estimates
the infection as high as one in every five adults.
- Uganda, the first country in Africa to
institute a far-reaching AIDS prevention program, has shown some results
with rates dropping about a fifth in 1997 compared to the previous year,
particularly among younger age groups practicing safer sex.