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Jul 6, 2004

UNAIDS report indicates record year for infection

The United Nations joint programme on HIV/AIDS today released its biennial report on the global war against the deadly disease. And it’s not a pretty picture of the virus’s march across the planet. According to UNAIDS, HIV infections hit a record high last year with five million new infections worldwide, bringing the global number of people infected to thirty-eight million. While billions of dollars have been spent on medications and prevention campaigns around the globe, the report notes that nine out of ten people who urgently need treatment are not getting it and that the message of prevention is still only reaching one in five people who should have it. While globally, the epidemic seems to be spreading fastest in Eastern Europe and Asia, UNAIDS says that in Latin America and the Caribbean, the epidemic has taken divergent paths. In Latin America, it is drug addicts and homosexuals most at risk, while in the Caribbean the greatest threat has come via heterosexual transmission, particularly involving prostitution. That heterosexual pattern also holds true in Sub-Saharan Africa where women with AIDS outnumber men by a ratio of thirteen to ten. The worst affected country outside of Africa is Haiti, which has an estimated five point six percent of its population carrying the virus. The report also notes that infections are on the rise in the United States and Western Europe particularly among homosexual or bisexual men. With an estimated three million people dying yearly from AIDS, the United Nations agency says that by 2005, twelve billion dollars a year will be needed to combat the disease. More than twenty million people have died worldwide since AIDS was first diagnosed in 1981.

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