HIV infections are once again rising in the EU and other parts of the West, particularly among younger people, because funding for awareness programmes has been slashed for years and fortunate medical advances in anti-retroviral treatment and a rising life expectancy of those infected are (thus) too often leading to a perception of HIV/AIDS as a chronic illness rather than a fatal disease.
In the US, the problem has been aggravated by the religious right’s efforts to abandon pragmatic policies in favor of a dogmatic prevention policy based predominantly on “abstinence only.”
Yet, in addition to some parts of Asia and large parts of Subsaharan Africa, where the virus is already out of control, Eastern Europe is extremely affected. In fact, as Dr. Peter Piot., head of UNAids, explained yesterday, the situation could hardly be more dramatic – the infection rate in Russia and the surrounding countries “…bears alarming similarities to the situation … faced 20 years ago in Africa” and is “perilously close to [the] tipping point” of spreading quickly through the entire population.
Ukraine, the country watched by the world these days seems particularly vulnerable. Despite well funded prevention efforts deemed “adequate and efficient” by UNAids, according to the agency’s 2004 report Ukraine
“has the highest prevalence of HIV amongst the CIS countries [1,4% of all “adults” aged 15-49]. Since 1995, the virus has spread dramatically, first due to HIV transmission among injecting drug users, but lately also increasingly through sexual transmission. In 2002, 74% of HIV-infected people were injecting drug users, 40% were women and about 64% were under the age of 29.
Thus, In addition to orange ribbons, red ribbons aren’t going out of style any time soon there. For additional info, the BBC has a nice interactive map showing the global spread of HIV based on the 2002 UNAids report.