HIV; 45 Million More Cases By 2010 - Report

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Report Predicts 45 Million More HIV Cases by 2010
July 04, 2002 07:18 PM ET

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Another 45 million people will become infected with the AIDS virus in the next eight years, researchers predicted on Thursday but said this number could be slashed if good prevention programs were put into place right away.

Education, distribution of condoms, testing and other programs all work to reduce the rates of HIV infection, and if such approaches were used more widely, 28 million new infections could be prevented, the researchers said.

The reports, one published by the Global HIV Working Group and one in Thursday's edition of the Lancet medical journal, tie in with a United Nations report issued on Wednesday that predicts 70 million people will die of AIDS in the next 20 years. It said more than 40 million are currently infected.

"We failed to act decisively in the early stages of the epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa, and now we are paying the price," said David Serwadda of Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, a co-chair of the Working Group.

"But we still have an opportunity to save the next generation in Africa from AIDS, and to prevent runaway epidemics in India, Russia, and China."

Dr. Helene Gayle, former head of the AIDS division at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and now at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said experts know what works -- they just have to persuade countries to act.

"What will happen if we don't get aggressive? By the year 2010 we will have 45 million new HIV infections. But if prevention efforts are ramped up now, there will be only 28 million new cases," Gayle, who helped write the Working Group report, said in an interview.

"We need a massive scale-up of what we know works."


Examples of programs that work include Brazil's awareness campaigns and efforts to make anti-HIV drugs widely available. "Brazil has witnessed significant declines in risk behavior, reductions in new infections, and increased demand for voluntary counseling and testing," the report reads.

Uganda has a national AIDS awareness program that includes condom promotion and free counseling and testing, and has reduced the HIV rate among pregnant women in cities by about two-thirds. U.S. prevention programs have cut annual HIV infections by two-thirds since the mid-1980s.

Mass media campaigns, promotion and distribution of condoms, school-based programs, use of drugs to protect newborns if their mothers are infected and peer counseling for sex workers have all been shown to work.

Yet Gayle said estimates are that only one of every five people at high risk for catching HIV have access to means of preventing it, such as condoms.

"It's not surprising when people say prevention doesn't work," she said. "Prevention works -- we are just not using it to its full potential."

The nonprofit Gates and Kaiser Family Foundations pulled together 37 AIDS experts for the report, released ahead of the Global AIDS conference that begins in Barcelona, Spain, later this week.

The Lancet report was written by a team of experts at the World Health Organization, the joint United National Program on AIDS, the U.S. Census Bureau and Futures Group International.

Over the first four years, the total cost of the recommendations is estimated to be $8.4 billion. After that it would cost $4.8 billion a year, the groups estimated.

Overall, this would amount to $1,000 per infection prevented, which is far less than the cost of treating someone with HIV or AIDS.

"We shouldn't accept that the nature of the disease is to go on. We can do something about it that can substantially alter the course of the epidemic," Dr. Bernhard Schwartlander, director of WHO's Department of HIV/AIDS, told a telephone conference.


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