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Press Release

One Million More Living with HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, New Report Reveals

Catastrophic Impact Could Be Substantially Reduced with a Relatively Modest Contribution from Developed Nations

November 28, 2000

Berlin -- New figures released today show an estimated 3.8 million people became infected with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa during the year, bringing the total number of people living with HIV or AIDS in the region to 25.3 million, up nearly a million from last year's figure. At the same time, 2.4 million people died in Africa of AIDS this year, up from 2.2 million in 1999, according to AIDS Epidemic Update: December 2000, released today by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

"The AIDS situation in Africa is catastrophic," said Dr Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS, "and sub-Saharan Africa continues to head the list as the world's most affected region. One of the greatest causes for concern is that over the next few years, the epidemic is bound to get worse before it gets better. A relatively modest contribution -- US $3 billion -- would do something to turn this situation around. This is a fraction of the US $52 billion spent annually in the US on obesity."

Experts assessing the epidemic have concluded that additional funds of US $3 billion would go a substantial way towards coping with the epidemic, at least in sub-Saharan Africa. It is estimated that US $1.5 billion are needed for prevention efforts, and the other half for basic care of those already infected.

"The region faces a triple challenge: providing care for the growing population of people infected with HIV, bringing down new infections through more effective prevention, and coping with the impact of 17 million deaths on the continent," Dr Piot said.

Despite the number of new infections, certain parts of sub-Saharan Africa are showing stable or reduced infection rates. The continent registered 3.8 million new infections in 2000, compared with 4 million in 1999.

"If HIV infections start to explode in relatively less affected countries, the annual number of new infections in the region could start rising again," warned Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director General of the World Health Organization.

The report says the fall or stabilization of new infections may be due to two factors. First, effective prevention programmes in countries like Uganda have brought down national infection rates. Second, with over one in four adults already infected in some countries, there are relatively fewer people still likely to become infected, particularly within high-risk or vulnerable population groups.

In the most affected countries, AIDS is crippling national economies and undermining businesses. In South Africa, one of Africa's strongest economies, the epidemic may cut Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 17% by 2010 and wipe US $22 billion off the national economy. In Bostwana, the African country with the highest GDP but also the world's highest HIV rate, the government budget will be cut by 20% over the next decade because of AIDS and the poorest households will suffer a 13% reduction in income.

AIDS is also affecting African business. Companies are losing productivity and spending more on hiring and retraining as their workforces fall ill. Firms are also paying more for insurance and medical care.

The UNAIDS/WHO report also reveals up-to-date figures for parts of Africa where there has been little information about HIV until now. In Northern Africa, new evidence suggests infections are on the rise. In southern Algeria, local studies show around 1% of pregnant women attending antenatal clinics are HIV-infected. In Sudan, HIV is spreading among the general population, both in the north and the south of the country.

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This article was provided by UNAIDS. Visit UNAIDS' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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