An AIDS awareness poster in Dushanbe reads "Save us from this misery" (RFE/RL)
1 December 2005 -- Today is the 18th annual World AIDS Day, designed to highlight the global struggle against HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths.
In a message to mark the day, Peter Piot, executive director of the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, said that in 2005, the number of people living with HIV reached its highest level ever -- an estimated 40.3 million people, nearly half of them women.
Piot said that with the world now 25 years into the AIDS epidemic, the lessons are clear: countries that make investments in HIV prevention, and the treatment and care of people with the disease, are able to reverse the spread of AIDS.
Piot called on all UN member countries to adhere to their commitments to prevent the spread of the disease.
In a report released last month, the UN said AIDS was continuing to spread in Russia, Ukraine, Central Asia countries, and Iran. The report said an estimated 1.6 million people in Eastern Europe and Central Asia are now living with HIV, most in Russia and Ukraine.
The United Nations has issued its annual report on the AIDS epidemic. Here are some of its findings:
- There are currently an estimated 40.3 million people living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Of those, 17.5 million are women and 2.3 million are children under the age of 15.
- There were an estimated 4.9 million new HIV infections in 2005, including 700,000 children under the age of 15.
- An estimated 3.1 million people, including 570,000 children, died of AIDS in 2005.
- According to the report, more than 25 million people have died of AIDS worldwide since the disease was recognized in 1981.
- In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the number of HIV-positive people reached 1.6 million in 2005, up from 1.2 million in 2003. The bulk of people living with HIV in the region are in the Russian Federation and Ukraine. "Ukraine's epidemic continues to grow, with more new HIV infections occurring each year, while the Russian Federation has the biggest AIDS epidemic in all of Europe," the report states. A private Russian survey cited in the report found "no postive changes in sexual behaviour, with condom use decreasing slightly among people in their twenties."
- In Central Asia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have seen the most dramatic increases of HIV infections. In the Caucasus, the situation is described "relatively stable."
Central Asia: AIDS Project Seeks To Avert Epidemic
Eastern Europe: European Commission Warns Of 'Resurgent' HIV/AIDS Epidemic
Listen to a short interview by RFE/RL's Tajik Service with Gregory Henning Mikkelsen, director of EU team for a joint EU/UN AIDS initiative. In the November 21, 2005, interview, Mikkelsen describes the epidemic in Central Asia.Real Audio Windows Media