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Thursday, 8 July, 1999, 10:58 GMT 11:58 UK
Aids worldwide

Aids is one of the biggest killers in the world
The Aids pandemic is growing despite years of prevention work. UNAIDS, the United Nations' programme on Aids, says it manages to bring down HIV rates in some countries only to find them rising in others. Aids has now become the leading cause of death in Africa, overtaking malaria.


Asia is now set to see the biggest Aids explosion with numbers of HIV cases expected to double by the year 2000.

Aids Special Report
Cambodia is the most affected country in the region. Its health ministry estimates that 150,000 of the 11m population have HIV. Around 90% of these are thought to have caught the virus through heterosexual intercourse.

UNAIDS fear these figures are grossly underestimated.

It recently warned that one of the key contributors to the disease's spread in Asia was the prevalence of sexually transmitted disease (STDs).

People with STDs are more likely to contract the virus.

However, in different parts of the continent, as in different parts of the world, there are variations in the pattern of HIV spread.

For example, in China and Vietnam, intravenous drug use is a prime route for infection.


In Latin America, as in the USA and Western Europe, the main communities affected by HIV are gay men and intravenous drug users.

The number of cases of people being infected through heterosexual sex is rising fast.

In the US, the number of Aids deaths has declined for two consecutive years, but the disease remains the leading killer of African American men aged 25-44 and the second leading killer of African American women in the same age group.

African Americans, who comprise only 13% of the U.S. population, accounted for 43% of new Aids cases in 1997 and 36% of all Aids cases.

The main routes of infection are heterosexual sex and IV drugs.

Research shows African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage than whites and to receive poorer healthcare because of economic disadvantages.

Hispanic Americans represent just 10% of the US population, but they account for more than 20% of new Aids cases.

Approximately half of all new HIV infections in the United States occur in people under age 25. A quarter occur in people under age 22.


More than 80% of people with Aids come from Africa.

The World Health Organisation says the disease is now the leading cause of death, and is the cause of a fifth of all deaths in the continent. The UN estimates that two million Africans died of Aids in 1998. The numbers may be rising because many deaths were previously attributed to other conditions, such as tuberculosis.

Aids rates vary according to country with some having relatively low levels of infection, while others, such as Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Uganda have suffered greatly.

In Zimbabwe, which with Botswana has the highest incidence of Aids, life expectancy is likely to fall from 61 to 39 by the year 2010 because of Aids.

One in four people in the country is HIV positive.

Southern Africa, which is expected to see similar levels of HIV as were seen earlier in Eastern Africa, is only just beginning to tackle the problem.

It has a relatively well developed road system as well as a high level of migrant workers, allowing the disease to spread rapidly.

Many men working in the mines have to live most of the year away from home and there is a high use of prostitutes.

The end of apartheid may help the spread of HIV because it allows freer movement around the country.

The Aids epidemic in South Africa has also prompted protests about access to drug treatments, such as AZT, which are available in the West.

The government argues that it cannot afford the drug, even though the manufacturers are reported to have offered it at a reduced price.

But UNAIDS says education and prevention has reduced the Aids toll in some countries.

Uganda was hit early on in the pandemic and has organised huge health campaigns. As a result, the numbers of people infected are beginning to fall.


Aids also shows graphically the inequalities in world health.

While in the West, the presence of strong drug combinations has led to HIV becoming virtually a manageable disease, the situation is totally different in developing countries where drug treatments are too expensive and access to HIV tests is restricted.

In Europe, the number of people dying from Aids has fallen by 80% since 1995 because of the introduction of drug treatments which keep the virus at bay.

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See also:

28 Feb 99 | Aids
Aids threat to US blacks
27 Nov 98 | Aids
Aids deaths in Europe plummet
11 May 99 | Aids
Aids Africa's top killer
28 Apr 99 | Aids
Aids row in South Africa
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