AIDS Infections Increase Worldwide, Stabilize in Sub-Saharan Africa
An estimated 5.3 million people, including 600,000 children under the age of 15, contracted HIV this year, according to a World Health Organization report released last week, the New York Times reports. WHO's Weekly Epidemiological Record also found that, for the "first time," the number of new infections stabilized in sub-Saharan Africa, where an estimated 3.8 million people were newly infected with the virus compared to 4 million new infections reported in 1999. However, the report indicates that the stabilization is offset by increases in morbidity and deaths in the region, and sub-Saharan Africa still accounted for 72% of new infections last year. Asian and Pacific nations saw an additional 900,000 new infections this year, which were attributed "largely to the sex trade and illicit drugs." Currently 6.4 million people in Asia and the Pacific countries are living with the virus, second only to sub-Saharan Africa. Nearly 36.1 million adults and children worldwide live with HIV or AIDS, including 1.8 million in Latin America and the Caribbean; 920,000 people in the United States and Canada, 45,000 of whom were infected this year; 540,000 people in Western Europe, with 30,000 new infections this year; 400,000 in North Africa and the Middle East, with 80,000 new infections; and 15,000 in Australia and New Zealand, with 500 new infections.
Method of Transmission
Overall, the number of new HIV infections in industrial nations "has remained relatively constant over the past few years," the report noted, adding that the availability of antiretroviral therapy is "slowing progression from viral infection to AIDS and death." However, Eastern Europe and Central Asia experienced some of "the sharpest increases in HIV infections," with 250,000 new infections this year, bringing the region's total number of cases to 700,000 (Olson, New York Times, 11/25). "Most of the infections continue to occur among injecting drug users," the WHO report said of the former Soviet Bloc, noting that the AIDS epidemic "only hit the region in the 1990s following the fall of communism" (Koppel, AP/Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/25). In Latin American and Caribbean countries, infections "remain concentrated mainly in men who have unprotected sex with other men and injecting drug users." Heterosexual contact remains the primary source of transmission in sub-Saharan Africa. The Ivory Coast, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe reported the highest number of cumulative cases on the continent, the agency report said. Since AIDS was identified 20 years ago, 21.8 million people have died from the disease, including 3 million this year. The number of women dying from the disease has continued to rise; women accounted for 52% of adult deaths this year, the report said (New York Times, 11/24).