The greatest number of people to contract HIV/AIDS in any one year since the start of the epidemic was seen in 2003, reveals the UN's annual AIDS report.
About 4.8 million people were newly infected with AIDS in 2003. And globally the number of people with AIDS is continuing to grow, warns the report, from 35 million in 2001 to 38 million in 2003.
"In 2003, almost five million people became newly infected with HIV, the greatest number in any one year since the beginning of the epidemic," says the report.
More people also died of AIDS in 2003 - three million - than in any previous year, said Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, at the launch of the document in London, UK, on Tuesday.
"The epidemic shows no sign of weakening its grip on human society," writes Kofi Annan, UN secretary general, in the report's foreword. "The AIDS crisis continues to deepen in Africa, while new epidemics are growing with alarming speed in Asia and Eastern Europe.
No region of the world has been spared."
Piot warns of the globalization of the AIDS epidemic and of its increasingly disproportionate effect on women.
He says that AIDS is entering a global phase. Until recently mainly sub-Saharan Africa was affected, but now one in four new infections is in Asia.
"Home to 60 per cent of the world's population, the fast-growing Asian epidemic has huge implications globally," cautions the document.
But Piot does not believe that the epidemic in Asia will mirror the African AIDS epidemic, where an estimated 25 million people live with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.
"I think in general, Asia will not go the African way," he says. He says there are differences in sexual behaviors and violence between the continents. However, within...