December 1, 2010
HIV infection rates among young people in Western nations are three times higher than they were in the early 2000s, a top UNAIDS official noted in World AIDS Days remarks today.
"You have young people who don't know enough about AIDS, there is less of a fear factor about it," said UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Paul De Lay. "There seem to be secondary and tertiary waves of the epidemic, particularly the sexually transmitted side."
The problem is particularly acute among men in Western nations, notably Germany, Great Britain, and the United States, De Lay said.
"We find that every five to seven years we need to go through a new re-energized education campaign. We are doing that in the UK and Germany. Here in the US we have had a huge resurgence of sexually transmitted AIDS," De Lay said.
De Lay used World AIDS Day to draw attention also to the growing problem of HIV spread by injection drug use in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. About 90 percent of the region's new HIV infections in recent years were observed in just Russia and Ukraine.
HIV infection among pregnant addicts there sets up the possibility of spreading the virus to children and continuing "an ongoing transmission cycle," De Lay noted.
De Lay did cite some encouraging developments. The total number of new HIV infections in the world last year was about 2.6 million, down from the 3.3 million reported at the peak of the epidemic in 1999.
De Lay predicted that a "slow, steady decrease" such as has been observed in recent years could lead to conquering the epidemic in about 50 years.