Africa enters the death phase | india | Hindustan Times
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Africa enters the death phase

Africa has entered a phase of upward-spiralling mortality from AIDS that underscores the urgent need to distribute life-prolonging anti-HIV drugs.

india Updated: Dec 13, 2003 12:55 IST

Africa has entered a phase of upward-spiralling mortality from AIDS that underscores the urgent need to distribute life-prolonging anti-HIV drugs, United Nations agencies reported on Tuesday.

Two-thirds of AIDS fatalities and new HIV infections around the world this year will be in Africa, while in South Africa, "the worst still lies ahead," the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNAIDS warned.

South of the Sahara, around 26.6 million people - in a range of 25-28.2 million - will be infected with HIV out of an estimated global tally of 40 million, they said in a joint update on the planet's biggest health crisis.

Around 2.3 million Africans will have died from AIDS during 2003, and at least three million more Africans will have become infected.That compares with an estimated death toll around the world of three million this year, and five million new infections.

Africa's figures represent a fall compared with previous estimates. The regional estimate at the end of 2002 was 29.4 million out of a total of 42 million.

But, WHO/UNAIDS said, the new statistics are based on better data and smarter analytical tools, and thus should be more accurate than before. Nearly one in every 12 adult Africans has the AIDS virus.

That rate has remained relatively unchanged in recent years, yet no-one should be fooled into thinking that AIDS' onward march in Africa has been braked, the two agencies warned.

"HIV prevalence might ... appear stable, but it hides the fact that the persistently high number of annual, new HIV infections is matching the equally high number of AIDS deaths," the report said bluntly.

"We are not, therefore, witnessing a decline in this region's epidemic. There is no cause for complacency. In the absence of effective interventions, the epidemic will continue to wreak havoc in these countries."