UNITED NATIONS(Reuters) - Aids cases soared worldwide to 30 million adults
and children in 1997 with researchers saying they had grossly underestimated
the rate of infection, now at about 16,000 a day.
The sharp climb -- from 22.6 million people in 1996 -- is due to new methods
of collecting data as well as an actual 19 percent increase in the results,
said a report by UNAIDS, a joint program of U.N. specialized agencies,
But the increase, the survey said, is still 19 percent in 1997 over 1996
for all people infected with HIV or victims of Acquired Immune Deficiency
Syndrome (AIDS), even when the new reporting methods are taken into account.
"We are now realizing that rates of HIV transmission have been grossly
underestimated -- particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where the bulk of
infections have been concentrated," said Dr Peter Piot, executive
director of UNAIDS.
"If current transmission rates hold steady, by the year 2000, the
number of people living with HIV or AIDS will soar to 40 million,"
In 1997 alone, people who became infected for the first time swelled from
3.1 million children and adults to 5.8 million, an actual increase of 9
percent, according to the new estimates.
The report said that some 2.3 million people died of AIDS in 1997 -- a
50 percent increase over 1996. Nearly half those deaths were women and
460,000 were children under 15.
For children, the report estimates that 1,600 under 15 are infected with
HIV every day compared to 1,000 children a day last year.
The new figures show that the number of people estimated to be living with
HIV or AIDS include 20.6 million in sub-Saharan Africa, 6 million in South
and Southeast Asia and 1.3 million in Latin America and 530,000 in Western
The worst affected is sub-Sahara Africa where HIV (human immunodeficiency
virus) cases increased by an alarming 7.4 percent among people between
15 and 49 years of age.
In contrast the rate of new AIDS cases is expected to drop about 30 percent
in Western Europe in 1997, with only Portugal and Greece still showing
And new figures from the United States indicate the rate of AIDS will drop
by 11 percent in 1997 after decreasing 6 percent last year.
The survey, however, still pointed to many countries in the world where
reporting was faulty or non-existent, making it unclear how long the new
estimates would be valid.
Among the 30 million people currently living with HIV, most of them have
no idea they are infected, particularly in the developing world where the
epidemic is concentrated.
HIV testing in many countries is done mostly for purposes of surveillance
rather than treatment, which is scarce. Few people have any hope of treatment,
so they feel little incentive to get tested, the report said.
Southern African continues to be the worst affected area. South Africa
estimated 2.4 million of its citizens were living with HIV. Botswana figures
have doubled and Zimbabwe estimates the infection as high as one in every
Uganda, the first country in Africa to institute a far-reaching AIDS prevention
program, has shown some results with rates dropping about a fifth in 1997
compared to the previous year, particularly among younger age groups practicing
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