For many African countries the worst of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is still to come, according to a new UN report released on Tuesday.
In the absence of massively expanded prevention, treatment and care efforts, the AIDS death toll on the continent is expected to continue rising before peaking around the end of this decade, the UNAIDS/World Health Organisation AIDS Epidemic Update 2002 said.
The epidemic has worsened an already dire food crisis in southern Africa.
With more than 14 million people now at risk of starvation in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, HIV/AIDS was now reaching beyond the loss of life and health care costs traditionally associated with the disease.
In Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, national adult HIV prevalence rates have risen higher than thought possible and now exceed 30 percent.
But there are new, hopeful signs that the epidemic could eventually be brought under control.
According to the report, positive trends seem to be taking hold among younger people in a number of countries. Evidence from Ethiopia and South Africa show that prevention work is beginning to pay off for young women, with HIV prevalence rates dropping among pregnant teenagers.
Uganda continues to present proof that the epidemic does yield to human intervention. Recent HIV infections appear to be on the decline in several parts of the country as shown by the steady drop in HIV prevalence among 15-19year-old pregnant women, it added.
Despite the progress made by governments determined to reach the targets outlined in the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, a lot of ground still needs to be made up.
The Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS was adopted by governments at the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on HIV/AIDS in June 2001. It established targets to reduce HIV prevalence among young people and ensure expanded access to treatment and care by 2002.
Many Africans in need of antiretroviral treatment are not receiving it, and medicines to treat opportunistic infections are also inaccessible.
We can prevent 29 million new HIV infections this decade if we implement a full prevention package globally by 2005. Over the past two years the international community has come to recognise what is needed, in terms of resources and political leadership, to combat the pandemic, UNAIDS Executive Director, Dr Peter Piot said in a statement.
But we cannot say that in either category we are anywhere near where we need to be to have a significant impact on the epidemic, he added. (Source: IRIN
PLUSNEWS, 26 November 2002)
The UNAIDS/World Health Organisation AIDS Epidemic Update 2002 can be downloaded as Adobe PDF file in English (1.7 MB) at:
The annual AIDS epidemic update reports on the latest developments in the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. With maps and regional summaries, the 2002 edition provides the most recent estimates of the epidemic's scope and human toll, explores new trends in the epidemic's evolution, and features a special section examining the links between HIV/ AIDS and humanitarian crises.