Why We Should Care: A Global Epidemic
December 1, 1999
Since HIV was first identified over 15 years ago, the virus has spread rapidly to every corner of the globe.
Factors in the Spread of AIDS
Factors known to promote the rapid spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic include poverty, discrimination, sexual inequality, inadequate health or social services, rapid urbanization, and a migrant labor force. Also, some social mores and political issues surrounding sex, injection drug use, and blood transfusions have created environments that promote the spread of the virus.
Although these conditions exist to varying degrees in every region of the globe, they are more prevalent in certain areas, resulting in increased numbers of HIV infections. However, it is not clear why HIV infections have increased dramatically in some places while rates in neighboring regions remain stable over many years.
Despite the challenges, it is possible to decrease rates of infection through prevention efforts that acknowledge the behaviors that spread HIV and that provide skills and services to help people abstain from higher-risk behaviors.
AIDS Around the World
. . . in North America and Western Europe
As new infections continue to occur and new drug therapies keep people with HIV alive longer, the proportion of the population living with HIV has actually grown in these regions. Correspondingly, the number of AIDS-related deaths have declined. This shift has caused greater demands for care and presented new prevention challenges in these developed regions.
. . . in Sub-Saharan Africa
Within the African continent, sub-Saharan Africa is still the "global epicenter" for AIDS and HIV, with over two-thirds of the world's HIV-positive people living in this region.
Currently over 22 million sub-Saharan Africans are estimated to be living with HIV or AIDS. Almost 12 million have already died in this region due to AIDS-related illnesses.
. . . in North Africa and the Middle East
Less is known about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in North Africa and the Middle East than in other parts of the world. The generally conservative social and political attitudes and traditions in many of the countries in these regions present challenges to HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention efforts among their populations.
. . . in Asia and the Pacific
An estimated 7 million people are now living with HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific. By the end of the year 2000, an estimated 25% of people in this region will be living with HIV. The high rates of infection and rampant spread of HIV in Asia are attributed primarily to sharing of equipment for injection drug use and to the commercial sex industry.
. . . in Eastern Europe
Many countries in Eastern Europe have reported dramatic growth in HIV infection rates since the early 1990s. By contrast to the early part of this decade, the number of Eastern Europeans estimated to be living with the virus today is up to 70 times greater, with injection drugs as the largest factor.
. . . in Latin America and the Caribbean
In Latin America and the Caribbean, an estimated 1.7 million adults and children were living with HIV by the end of 1998. In this region, HIV/AIDS has taken its greatest toll on men who have sex with men and on injection drug users. However, rising infection rates in women -- and, consequently, in infants -- show that heterosexual transmission is becoming prominent. Traditional mores and attitudes can lead to double-standards that encourage men to have many sexual partners. Cultural expectations of female submissiveness and male dominance in sexual relations result in more women being placed at a risk of infection. In addition, the HIV epidemic is shifting to younger populations.
Table of Contents
New UN Report Estimates Over One-Third Of Today's 15-Year-Olds Will Die Of Aids In Worst-Affected Countries
This article was provided by American Association for World Health. It is a part of the publication Be a Force for Change.