I think we will see a further globalisation of the
epidemic spreading to every single corner of the planet, said Peter Piot,
the head of the United Nations' HIV/AIDS joint programme.
UNAIDS yesterday was scheduled to launch a 630-page report
that takes stock of where the world stands with nearly 40 million people living
with HIV/AIDS. It documents countries' progress and failures, and suggests what
must happen to keep some regions from experiencing disaster. The report was set
to be released a day before a high-level meeting on AIDS in New York, a week
before the 25th anniversary of the first documented AIDS cases on June 5 1981.
It won't go away one fine day, and then we wake up
and say, 'Oh, AIDS is gone,''' Piot said.
I think we have to start thinking about looking at
the next generations. There's an increasing diversity in how the epidemic
Piot said there was still time to stop it from worsening,
but action was needed now on a number of fronts.
Ultimately, it depends on how the leadership reacts,
how the international community will continue to respond and how ready
communities are to face the problem.
Intervention is very low . . . for many critical
populations in many countries. We need to really intensify the response to
Piot said the picture was not hopeless, with examples of
progress in nearly every part of the world. He said
were two of the only previous examples where exploding epidemics had been
curbed, but a handful of other countries, including
, were also starting to show promise.
Epidemics were diversifying, Piot said, with some driven by unprotected sex,
others by dirty needles and some by a combination of the two overlapping each
other. Those trends had to be identified and targeted.
At present, about 1.3 million people in poor countries have
access to antiretroviral treatment, but about 80% are still not receiving drugs.
Piot said sub-Saharan
continued to be the epicenter of the virus. The overall percentage of adults
infected in some of the hardest-hit countries continued to climb, with several
rates reaching double digits.
I think in
, it is only comparable in demographic terms to the slave trade regarding the
impact it has had on the population, Piot said.
, HIV prevalence continues to go up, and they're already the world record.
Piot said the sheer population of Asia, home to most of the
world's population, made it a potential problem because even small gains in
overall per capita infections equalled huge numbers - especially in countries
, with more than one billion people each. More than five million people are
The Asia-Pacific region has 8.3 million people living with
the virus, the second-highest after sub-Saharan
Papua New Guinea, which shares an island north of Australia
with Indonesia's easternmost Papua province, has one of the region's worst
epidemics in a country plagued by political instability, poverty and rampant
sexual violence against women.
Piot said it was the only place in the region that
resembled an Africa-style epidemic.
He said Eastern Europe and Central Asia had become a new
front where infections had expanded as people gained access to more money and
started buying injecting drugs from countries like
Absolute numbers are still low, but when you look at
the spread of the disease, we know from experience where that leads, he
is the last part of the world where HIV is not spreading rapidly. - Sapa-AP
The UNAIDS 2006 Report on the global AIDS epidemic can be viewed on: