UNDP Report Traces Rising HIV Rates in CIS Countries

YEREVAN (ARMENPRESS)–On Wednesday–the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) released the 2004 HIV/AIDS report for Eastern European and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries–titled "Reversing the Epidemic: Facts and Policy Options." Vladimir Davidyants–Chief State Sanitary Doctor of Armenia–Lise Grande–UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative–Samvel Grigoryan–Head of the Republican AIDS Prevention Center and representatives of international and local organizations participated in the event–which was held at the United Nations House in Yerevan.

The report presents the first comprehensive outline of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 28 countries of East and South-Eastern Europe–the Baltics and the CIS. The UN estimates that 1.8 million people in the region have HIV and that 280,000 people contracted the virus last year. Despite a comparatively low prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the region–growth rates in Estonia–Russia and Ukraine are among the world’s highest. The report stresses that the HIV/AIDS crisis poses a threat to the region’s economic growth–resulting in an estimated loss of at least one percent GDP growth per year.

According to the report–once the number of those infected with HIV/AIDS surpasses 1% of a country’s total population–it becomes extremely difficult for experts to reverse the trend. Any delays–the reports notes–in addressing the problem can be catastrophic: only twelve years ago–South Africa was facing an infection rate among the adult population that was less than one percent; now the rate is twenty times higher.

According to Grande–"UNDP’s report reveals that there is already an HIV crisis in the CIS. Although the situation in Armenia is not as disastrous as in some other major CIS countries–steps need to be taken now to avoid the kind of catastrophe that is affecting other countries. By working together–the government–civil society–the mass media and donors can make a difference. Through reports like the one we are releasing today–we can help raise awareness among the general public and promote responsible behavior among all people living in Armenia."

Between 1988 and 2004–279 individuals infected with HIV registered with the Armenian government. Of those affected–a vast majority are men (206 cases-77.7%). 79.2% are between the ages of 20-39.

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