NEW YORK–HIV/AIDS is spreading at a faster rate in parts of Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CEE/CIS) than anywhere else in the world–says UNICEF in a new report–The Social Monitor. The report–tracking the well-being of children and young people in the region–warns that HIV/AIDS is the greatest threat to their health as it moves – virtually unchecked – into the mainstream population in a number of countries.
"The implications for the region’s economic growth and social stability – which are so dependent on its young people – are alarming," said Carol Bellamy–Executive Director of UNICEF. "HIV/AIDS has a young face in this region. Young people account for most new infections and their low levels of HIV awareness–combined with increasingly risky behavior–herald a catastrophe. It is clear that the gravity of the situation has been underestimated and that precious time has been lost. Without immediate and radical action–there is little to stop the spread of the disease."
In the CIS–almost 80% of new infections were registered among people under 29 between 1997 and 2000. In Estonia–the report finds–38% of newly registered infections are among those aged under 20–and 90% among people under 30 years of age.
By the end of 2001–there were an estimated one million people with HIV/AIDS in the region–up from 420,000 in 1998. Newly registered cases increased more than five-fold between 1998 and 2001. Two countries–Russia and Ukraine–account for 90% of the region’s estimated HIV/AIDS cases–but Estonia now has the region’s highest rate of new HIV infections–with more than one in every 1,000 people infected in 2001 – almost 20 times the average EU rate. HIV is also spreading rapidly in Latvia and Kazakhstan–and the number of cases is rising again in Ukraine and Moldovia. While data suggest little growth in HIV/AIDS in Central and South-Eastern Europe–there is no room for complacency.
The high prevalence of other sexually transmitted infections–such as syphilis and gonorrhea–suggest that conditions are ripe for the further spread of HIV. And the rising proportion of infections among women–who are less likely to be injecting drug users–is another sign of increasing sexual transmission. Women accounted for 25% of officially registered infections in the CIS countries between 1997 and 2000.
For a full text of the UNICEF report–go to: www.unicef.org.
Editor’s note: Armenpress reports that during the last three years–the number of deaths related to HIV in Armenia has exceeded those during all previous years. There were a total of 196 people in Armenia infected with AIDS at the beginning of September; 155 were males. Forty-nine percent of cases or 96 people were reported in Yerevan–second was the province of Ararat with 8.2 percent of cases. It is believed–however–that the actual number of people suffering from AIDS and HIV in Armenia are ten times greater–meaning that there are some 2,500 people suffering from the disease.