AIDS on the Rise

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

2001 UN/WHO Report shows cases increasing

by David Johnson

The U.N. is raising awareness around the world, as evidenced by this poster for World AIDS Day in German. (Source:

Related Links

As world AIDS DAY is marked on December 1, health authorities warn the disease is reaching epidemic proportions in new parts of the world.

The "AIDS Epidemic Update" released each year by the United Nations and the World Health Organization states that some 40 million people around the world are living with AIDS or HIV.

The report estimates that three million people died of AIDS-related causes in the past year, including 2.4 million adults and 580,000 children. More than 2 million deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa.

In addition, there were five million new infections, including 4.3 million adults and 800,000 children. Of these, 3.4 million were in sub-Saharan Africa.

Hitting Africa Hard

The largest number, over 28 million, of AIDS sufferers live in sub-Saharan Africa. In 16 African nations, at least 10% of those between 15 and 49 are infected while in seven southern African countries the rate of infection in that age group reached 20%. 4.7 million South Africans, about one in nine of the country's people, is HIV-positive, the largest number in the world. Other hard-hit countries include Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana, which has about the highest infection rate in the world. Half of the population between 25 and 29 are dying of the disease.

The economic impact of AIDS is devastating. Several of the hardest-hit African states could lose 20% of their gross domestic products by 2010.

Public health measures, however, can pay off. Uganda has reduced its infection rate through a massive public awareness campaign.

Latin America and Caribbean Have High Rates

Although their total population is small, the Caribbean Islands have the second highest HIV rates in the world. 420,000 people in the Caribbean are HIV-positive. AIDS is a leading cause of death in Haiti and the Bahamas, which are the most affected Caribbean nations.

In Latin America 1.4 million people are HIV-positive, including 600,000 in Brazil. However, Brazil, the region's largest nation, has been able to reduce the spread of the disease through an aggressive public relations campaign. AIDS patients also receive free medications. The Andean nations, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, have the lowest rates in the region.

AIDS Makes Rapid Increase in Eastern Europe/Central Asia

HIV is spreading fastest in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. There were 250,000 new infections in this region in the past year, bringing the total to one million.

Russia, Ukraine, and Estonia have reported big increases in HIV-positive results, while several Central Asian republics have seen a rise in infection among drug-using populations.

However, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovenia have instituted prevention campaigns cited as effective in curtailing the epidemic in those countries.

East Asian Explosion

In 1999, only Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia had serious AIDS epidemics. However, HIV infection is spreading rapidly through the region. In 2001 more than one million new HIV infections are estimated in Asia and the Pacific regions. This brings the regional total to more than seven million.

HIV cases in China are believed to reach one million in late 2001. A 64% increase in HIV infection was reported in the first six months of 2001 over the same period a year earlier. Drug addiction, the sex industry, and blood sharing have spread HIV in several Chinese provinces.

India has the second largest number of HIV or AIDS cases in the world (nearly four million). The prevalence of HIV is also rising in Vietnam, Indonesia, and Bangladesh, among other nations.

Complacence a Danger for Wealthy Nations

The report predicted a resurgence of AIDS cases in wealthy nations unless renewed public health campaigns are undertaken. The use of new drugs to prolong the life of AIDS patients has fostered a sense of complacence in the west.

In western industrial nations there are indications that HIV infections are moving into poorer segments of the population. There are 1 million HIV-positive people in North America and 600,000 Europe.

The Middle East Has a Low Prevalence

The Middle East reports the fewest numbers of HIV cases, 440,000. Sudan, Somalia, and Djibouti are among the countries most affected, while Iran, Pakistan, and Libya all report an increase in the number of cases.

Actual HIV/AIDS cases around the world are believed to be higher than the numbers of reported cases.

Sources +