36 million people now living with AIDS


The New York Times

GENEVA — An estimated 5.3 million people, including 600,000 children younger than 15, were infected with HIV/AIDS this year, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

This is the first year that the number of new infections in sub-Saharan Africa appeared to have stabilized, but that was offset by increases in morbidity — the rate the disease was contracted — and mortality in the same region during 2000.

An estimated 3.8 million people in the region were newly infected with HIV this year, as opposed to a total of 4 million there during 1999. The region is home to about one-tenth of the world’s population but remains the world’s hardest-hit. Not only did it account for 72 percent of new HIV infections last year, but the region also had 70 percent of the people living with HIV/AIDS and 80 percent of the AIDS deaths in the past year, according to WHO’s Weekly Epidemiological Record.

Worldwide, a total of 36.1 million adults and children are estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS. The adults are split almost equally between men and women, with an estimated 18.2 million men ages 15 to 49 living with the disease, the U.N. health agency said. It said the decline in AIDS cases in industrialized countries is being offset by the increases in reports from developing countries, particularly sub-Saharan Africa.

In the two decades since the pandemic was recognized, an estimated 21.8 million adults and children have died from the disease. Of those, an estimated 3 million died this year. The numbers of women dying have continued to increase, accounting for an estimated 52 percent of such adult deaths this year, the WHO said.

The disease continues to claim new victims in all parts of the world, including industrialized countries, the report said. Thousands of people continue to become infected in North America, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand, although the availability of retroviral therapy continues to slow progression of HIV to full-blown AIDS and death, the agency said.

Overall, the number of new HIV infections in these countries "has remained relatively constant over the past few years," it said. WHO statistics showed that the United States and Canada had an estimated 920,000 people living with HIV/AIDS, with approximately 45,000 new cases this year.

An additional 540,000 victims live in Western Europe, which had about 30,000 new infections in 2000. Australia and New Zealand have an estimated 15,000 people infected with the disease, and about 500 new infections this year, the report added.

People who inject drugs are responsible for most of the new infections in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the report said. The areas suffered some of the sharpest increases in HIV infections, with an estimated 250,000 people newly infected this year, leading to a 60 percent rise in the regional total of people living with HIV/AIDS to 700,000, according to the agency.

Asia and the Pacific countries are second only to sub-Sahara Africa in the number of children and adults, estimated at 6.4 million, living with HIV/AIDS. This included more than 900,000 new cases this year, the report noted. The new cases were attributed to the sex trade and illicit drugs.

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