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HEALTH REPORT - UN Says AIDS Crisis Is Getting Worse - 2004-07-13

Broadcast: July 14, 2004

This is Phoebe Zimmerman with the VOA Special English Health Report.

The fifteenth International AIDS Conference ends Friday in Bangkok, Thailand. There has not been much good news. In fact, the United Nations AIDS program reported last week that the crisis is getting worse.

The report said more people than ever, almost five million, became infected last year with H.I.V. Thirty-eight million are now infected with the virus that causes AIDS. Almost half are women. And half are between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four.

Last year almost three million people with AIDS died. The U.N. says more than twenty million have died since the disease was first recognized in nineteen-eighty-one.

The report says H.I.V. is spreading fastest in eastern Europe and Asia. About seven million people in Asia are living with H.I.V. The disease largely began to spread there among sex workers, homosexual men and people who inject drugs. But experts say it is now moving into the general population.

China, Indonesia and Vietnam were noted for the sharpest increases. India has the highest number of infections of any country except South Africa. India has more than five million people with H.I.V.

Seventy percent of H.I.V. infected people in the world live in southern Africa. Yet that area has only ten percent of the world’s population. An estimated twenty-five million people are infected in countries south of the Sahara. Three out of four are women. Among sixteen year olds in southern Africa today, sixty percent might not reach their sixtieth birthday. After Africa, the U.N. report says the Caribbean is the area hardest hit.

U.N. officials says infections are also on the rise in the United States and western Europe. Half of the new infections in the United States are among African-Americans.

The report blames the increase in western countries largely on the use of AIDS drugs which suppress the virus. Officials say these medicines have made some people less concerned about being infected.

Many countries have reduced their rates of H.I.V. infection. Among them are Brazil, Uganda and Thailand. Also, drug prices have dropped. And there is more money to fight AIDS. But the U.N. AIDS report says developing countries are getting less than half the money they need. It says only one person in five in developing countries is able to get treatment.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Phoebe Zimmerman.