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Wednesday, 28 November, 2001, 00:23 GMT
Report to highlight global Aids toll
African patient
Africa is still the worst-hit region
Figures released on Wednesday are expected to show another rise in the number of people infected with the virus which causes Aids.

A report from UNAids and the World Health Organisation is likely to show that a "declaration of war" on the disease by the UN in June has yet to have any impact on the number of new infections.

The report is being published ahead of World Aids Day on Saturday.

The epicentre of the catastrophe remains sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 25m people were living with the disease this time last year, and deaths from Aids were 2.4m.

New hotspots

Doctors are increasingly concerned about spiralling disease rates in other parts of the world, such as eastern Europe - and say much more needs to be done to halt the spread in south and south-east Asia.

The number of cases in these regions is expected to have risen significantly over the past year.

Even in "high-income countries" such as the US and UK, where expensive anti-retroviral drugs are available, rates of new infections are creeping upwards, and the report is expected to reflect this.

In June, the UN made an unprecedented declaration of commitment to fight the Aids epidemic, calling for global action to curb its spread.

The primary goal of the campaign was to prevent new infections - by 25% in 15- to 24-year-olds over the next four years, and by half by 2010.

African tragedy

However, the tragedy of Sub-Saharan Africa dwarfs even the impending crises in Asia and eastern Europe.

In 16 countries in the region, at least 10% of those aged between 15 and 49 are infected - and in several southern African states, it is at least 20%.

Calculations suggest the hardest-hit African countries could lose one-fifth of their Gross Domestic Product by 2010, as a result of Aids.

Average life expectancy in four countries - Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique and Swaziland - is now less than 40 years. Without Aids, it would be more than 60.

In the past year, the campaign to supply modern antiretroviral therapies to developing countries has gathered momentum, and forced concessions from some multinational drug companies.

However, prices remain "too high" for many low-income countries, and even if they could afford the drugs, their crumbling health infrastructures offer no means to distribute them effectively.

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