World News and Trends: AIDS epidemic spreads

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AIDS epidemic spreads

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In 1999, according to UN estimates, another 5.6 million people were infected with the AIDS virus. The 2.6 million deaths from the disease in 1999 are the highest annual total since the disease was recognized almost two decades ago.

Although drug therapies have slowed AIDS death rates in the United States and Europe, such advances offer little hope in other areas where many such treatments are hopelessly unaffordable. More than 70 percent of those infected with the virus live in sub-Saharan Africa. The percentage of the population in the independent states of the former Soviet Union infected with HIV has doubled in the last two years, primarily from growing intravenous drug use.

In Africa infections in women outnumber those in men, with six females infected for every five men carrying the virus. Among teenagers HIV-infected girls outnumber boys by five or six to one.

"The epidemic is far from over," noted Dr. Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, the United Nations' AIDS program. "The crisis is actually growing." (Source: The Los Angeles Times.)