A new United Nations report says the AIDS epidemic will claim more than three-million lives this year. The U-N report says an estimated thirty-nine million people worldwide are infected with H-I-V, the virus that causes AIDS. Southern Africa continues to be the hardest hit region, with more than twenty-five million people infected. Mark Stirling is director of the U-N AIDS Regional Support Team in Africa:
"What we recognize is that with Africa, the home to some ten percent of the world's population, we are also the home of roughly sixty-four percent, two-thirds of those living with H-I-V. So there's a disproportionate burden obviously continuing to be borne within this continent."
The Caribbean is the second most affected region, according to the U-N report. AIDS is now the leading cause of death there among adults aged fifteen to forty-four. The U-N says that H-I-V infections rose fifty percent in East Asia this year, largely because of growing epidemics in China, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Central Asia is also experiencing a rise in AIDS cases.
Nearly half of all those infected with H-I-V are women. The U-N report says the number of infected women has increased in each region of the world over the past two years. In sub-Saharan Africa, a majority of infected adults are women. Mark Stirling says the epidemic is taking a heavy toll among young African women:
"The report stresses the fact that three-quarters of all women living with H-I-V and AIDS are in Africa, that roughly sixty percent of people living with H-I-V and AIDS within Africa are women, and also highlights the horrendous fact that amongst young people fifteen to twenty-four, roughly seventy-six percent of young people living with H-I-V and AIDS are female."
The United States has committed more than fifteen-billion dollars to the prevention, treatment, and care of people infected with or affected by AIDS in over one-hundred countries. A special focus has been put on fifteen of the world's hardest hit countries. AIDS "is a disease that can be dealt with," says U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. "Whether it's the education of young people, prevention, abstinence, anti-retroviral drugs, getting the costs down, looking for a cure, not stigmatizing people who are suffering from this disease" -- all these, says Mr. Powell, are part of a comprehensive approach to fighting AIDS.