African-Americans, Women in Europe Hit Worst By AIDS: UN

AFP, Nov. 21

Young African Americans led the number of new HIV/AIDS cases in the United States while the number of women infected via sex in Western Europe showed a sharp spike.

New cases rose 43,000 in the United States to top one million as prevention efforts lagged despite extensive programs to treat HIV, the virus that leads to fatal AIDS, according to the AIDS Epidemic Update 2005 published on Monday.

“African Americans accounted for 48 percent of new HIV cases in the (United States) in 2003. African American women are more than a dozen times as likely to be infected with HIV than their white counterparts.

“AIDS has become one of the top three causes of death for African American men aged 25-54 and for African American women aged 25-34,” said the report released in New Delhi ahead of World AIDS day on December 1.

Across the Atlantic, Western Europe accounted for more than half a million infections in 2005, the report said.

“The number continues to grow amid signs in several countries of a resurgence of risky sexual behaviour. The biggest change in Western Europe has been the emergence of heterosexual contact as the dominant cause of new HIV infections in several countries.

The United States and Western Europe, with about 700 million people combined, have extensive prevention and treatment programs for AIDS, but cases continue to rise as unprotected sex between men remains common, the report said.

“In the United States, unprotected sex between men remains the dominant mode of transmission, accounting for 63 percent of newly-diagnosed HIV infections,” the report said.

It said that treatment efforts had been successful in prolonging lives, although prevention efforts had not been sustained.

“This reflects the fact that people with HIV are living longer due to antiretroviral treatment, as well as the failure to adapt and sustain the prevention successes achieved during the epidemics first 10-15 years.”

“On the whole, Western Europe and North America remain the only regions in the world where most people in need of antiretroviral treatment are able to receive it. In Western Europe, that trend has persisted,” it added.

A quarter of people living with HIV in the United States were unaware they are infected, the report said adding “ignorance is very likely adding impetus to the epidemic,” the report said.

In Britain, unsafe sex between men accounted for a quarter of new HIV diagnoses and “is an important factor in the epidemics in France and the Netherlands,” the report said.

As well, the report said immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa are fuelling new cases in Europe.

“A large proportion of new diagnoses are in people originating from countries with serious epidemics, principally countries in sub-Saharan Africa,” the report said, adding that more than 20,000 new HIV infections were reported in 2004.

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