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The global pandemic of AIDS

We are seeing very rapid spread of HIV in Russia and other former Easter bloc countries. In Romania, up to one in ten of all children in orphanages became infected before the revolution in 1990, and a similar percentage shortly after. The route was  mainly infected needles rather than the widely reported micro-transfusions used as a tonic.

In Thailand, many experts predicted a serious AIDS epidemic because of the sex industry and international sex tourism. However, by the time the Thai government was prepared to acknowledge the situation, the epidemic was well underway. In three years, half a million were infected---the great majority heterosexually.  But as with Uganda, a prompt and aggressive health campaign has saved the lives of millions of Thai people.

In South East Asia, HIV is spreading so fast that it threatens to dwarf the African problem by the year 2010. However, there is hope that if denial is replaced by openness, and if openness leads to intensive prevention, then the eventual size of the tragedy may be significantly reduced. South East Asia has the advantage of advanced warning---something Africa never had.

In India alone there are more sexually-active people alive than adults in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, and India by 2001 had more HIV cases than any other nation. What happens in the East is likely to have a massive impact on the world situation.  In Bombay (Mumbai) alone there are an estimated 1000 new infections every night, just in the huge red light district which attracts over 100,000 young men daily. Some parts of India have HIV infection rates of more than 1%.  If that rises as it has done in parts of Africa to more than 15% then we could see four times as many AIDS deaths in India than there had been in the entire world up until 2001.

China, with a fifth of the world's population, registered a rise of more than 67% in reported HIV infections in the first six months of 2001. Although surveillance data are sketchy, an estimated 850 000 Chinese were living with HIV/AIDS as of the end of 2001.Since the early 1990s, tens of thousands of rural villagers (and possibly many more) have become infected in China through unsafe blood-donation procedures.  Untreated sexually transmitted diseases doubled from 1997 to 2001 and huge population movements within the country are also accelerating spread.

In Indonesia -  the fourth largest population of all countries - infection rates have jumped in a year from 15% to 40% among drug users attending treatment centres in Jakarta.