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DEVELPOMENT REPORT - World AIDS Day - 2003-11-30

Broadcast: December 1, 2003

This is Robert Cohen with the VOA Special English Development Report.

December first is World AIDS Day. The message at events this year is “Live and Let Live.” The aim is to end unfair treatment of people with H-I-V and AIDS. Experts say such discrimination remains a barrier to prevention and care.

The United Nations reported last week that the spread of AIDS shows no signs of easing. It says an estimated forty-million people are living with the virus. These include two-and-a-half million children. Worldwide, the report says five-million people became infected with H-I-V and three-million died this year -- the most ever.

Doctor Peter Piot heads the United Nations AIDS program. He says AIDS is spreading fastest in Eastern Europe, especially Russia. The Caribbean continues to experience high levels of infection. And, he says there could be major increases in China, India and Indonesia.

One out of five adults in southern Africa is living with H-I-V or AIDS. Southern Africa remains the worst affected part of the world. But Doctor Piot says there is a sharp increase in parts of western Africa, such as in Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Nigeria.

Sex, infected blood and the sharing of injection needles can all spread the AIDS virus. AIDS was first discovered in the nineteen-eighties. Now, more women than men become infected with H-I-V. And Doctor Piot warns that the ability of countries to provide services has dropped as many health workers become infected.

The U-N says South Africa had more people with H-I-V at the end of last year than any other country. It had an estimated five-point-three million cases, around eleven percent of the population. Last month South Africa announced a plan to provide anti-retroviral medicines for free. These drugs restrain the spread of the virus.

South Africa says it hopes to have centers open in every health district within a year and in every local area within five years. The plan also includes money for public education and training for health care workers.

Until now, the government has said the drugs cost too much and could cause harm. However, the cost of three AIDS drugs taken as a combination will be cut by almost one-third. This will happen under an agreement negotiated by the Clinton Foundation. Former American President Bill Clinton says that if the South African program is successful, other nations could follow it.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. This is Robert Cohen.