The United Nations AIDS organization released disturbing estimates
Thursday of the seemingly relentless expansion of the HIV pandemic.
At a time when many Americans are increasingly optimistic that
state-of-the-art drug therapy might eliminate the virus, HIV is taking a
heavy toll worldwide.
According to the agency, every minute of every day somewhere in the
world, six people become infected with HIV: 7,500 adults per day and
1,000 children. About 30 million people have acquired the virus during the
last 15 years; 6.4 million of them have died of AIDS.
Behind this mounting death count are the signs of growing social
disruption. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, more than 1 million
children have lost their parents to AIDS. And within four years, there will
be more than 2 million AIDS orphans in the following seven countries
combined: Dominican Republic, Kenya, Rwanda, Thailand, Uganda, the
United States, and Zambia.
Illness and death among young adults due to HIV have reached such
proportions in some countries that overall national economics and
productivity are affected.
In Uganda, for example, 44 percent of all
premature deaths are attributable to AIDS. In terms of years of labor
productivity, AIDS is responsible for more than 66 percent of Uganda's
economically significant losses.
The virus is also spreading into new areas. For example:
-During the last three years, HIV-infection rates among Vietnamese
prostitutes jumped from 9 percent to 38 percent.
-Infection rates among blood donors in the Cambodian capital of Phnom
Penh have soared from 0.1 percent to more than 10 percent.
-In the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Nikolayev, HIV-infection rates
among narcotics users exploded in 1995, jumping from a 1.7 percent in
January to 56.5 percent in November.
-South Africa, long spared, is now being overrun. Tests of pregnant
women in the province of Kwazulu/Natal...