The UNAIDS report issued yesterday shows provides an insight into the success of the policy adopted to fight AIDS. In the developed nations, the number of new cases is decreasing due to public awareness programmes, the issue of clean syringes to drug users and support to those infected or affected by HIV. The same cannot be said of the Less Developed Countries.
5 million new cases, 3.1 million deaths in 2002, 3.2 million cases in children under 15 years of age, 42 million people infected with HIV, these are the bare truths revealed by the UN report. Of the 42 million people infected, 19.2 million are women while 4.2 million of the 5 million new cases registered this year are in women.
The virus is no longer restricted to the homosexual male community and is more and more a disease which is transmitted through heterosexual relationships, currently constituting 59% of the cases in developed countries. The reasons for this are the impact produced by the drug users, who at first infected each other as they shared needles but later, as the girls turned to prostitution to feed their habit, they started to infect the clients who insisted on unsafe sex without a condom. Some of these caught venereal diseases while others caught venereal diseases and HIV, later on infecting their wives or other sexual partners.
Many cases of AIDS are diagnosed in people who had no idea that they were infected or in cases of people who had suspected that they had the disease but were too scared to face it. Early signs of the disease are a constant temperature, sweating at night and swollen glands. In the developed countries, retro-viral drug cocktails can keep the viral load down to levels at which the patient can lead a normal life, the disease being treated as chronic rather than a critical one.
Much is said about the rise in cases in India, China and Eastern and Central Europe, however, in this last area the number of people infected (1.2 million) is less than the figure for North and Central America combined (1.42 million cases). The speed of the increase in the infection rate nevertheless lead scientists to believe that in the coming five years the number of cases will mushroom.
Globally, there are 980,000 people with HIV in North America, 440,000 in the Caribbean, 1.5 million in Latin America, 570,000 in Western Europe, 1.2 million in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, 550,000 in North Africa and the Middle East, 1.2 million in Eastern Asia and the Pacific, 6 million in Southern and South-East Asia, 15,000 in Australia and New Zealand and 29.4 million in Sub-Saharan Africa.
It is this last group which is the real tragedy. Abandoned by the world, abandoned by their own governments, these people continue to live in ignorance and many cannot afford the medication they need. Whole communities are being wiped out Most of the 3.2 million children who have died of AIDS in 2002 are from this region, where practices such as raping baby girls who are less than a year old to provide protection against the disease are rife, proof of the ignorance which victimised these people.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru