Note about UNAIDS/WHO estimates

Note about UNAIDS/WHO estimates

The estimates concerning HIV and AIDS in this document are based on the information available to UNAIDS and WHO at the current time. They are provisional. WHO and UNAIDS, together with experts from national AIDS programmes and research institutions, keep these estimates under constant review with a view to updating them as improved knowledge about the epidemic becomes available and as advances are made in the methods used for deriving estimates. For example, knowledge about the epidemic improves not only…

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“HIV/AIDS is among us”

“HIV/AIDS is among us”

South Africa, which in 1998 accounted for nearly 1 in 10 of the new HIV infections estimated to have occurred worldwide, is the latest country in the ranks of those seeking to break through the shroud of stigma and shine a light on the human disaster of AIDS. “For too long we have closed our eyes as a nation, hoping the truth was not so real,” South African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki told South Africans in October 1998. “For many…

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Driven by stigma: Shame, silence and denial

Driven by stigma: Shame, silence and denial

It is hard to measure stigma–people with HIV see it in a scornful look in the marketplace, in the refusal of family and friends to visit, care for or even touch them, in the maltreatment of their children or the loss of their job on a flimsy pretext. But stigma is a very real obstacle to both prevention and care. In many of the hardest-hit countries, government officials and ordinary citizens–including those most affected by the epidemic–often continue to look…

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Driven by danger: Soldiers in Cambodia

Driven by danger: Soldiers in Cambodia

Decades of political turmoil and civil war have left much of Cambodia’s infrastructure in tatters. Education, health care, the transport network–all are being rebuilt more or less from scratch as peace gradually returns to the country. In the meantime Cambodian soldiers, many of them teenagers with no schooling, continue to battle Khmer Rouge rebels in the northwest of the country. For them, risk is a way of life, whether from combat, malaria or land mines. It is understandable that many…

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Driven by conflict: Survivors in Rwanda

Driven by conflict: Survivors in Rwanda

Before the political turmoil of the mid-1990s, more studies had been done to understand the HIV epidemic in Rwanda than in most developing countries. The pattern of infection recorded there was a familiar one: high rates in urban areas (more than 10% of pregnant women infected) but far lower rates in the rural areas that were home to the bulk of the population (just over 1%). The political difficulties of recent years not only interrupted HIV surveillance; they changed the…

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Driven by loneliness: Migrant labourers in South Africa

Driven by loneliness: Migrant labourers in South Africa

Nowhere is this more true than in South Africa. Thriving mining industries attract workers not just from rural areas of the nation, but from neighbouring economies where job opportunities are limited and wages are lower. It is hard to know how many people move into and around South Africa in search of work. More than a decade ago 2.5 million South Africans were registered as migrant workers, and that number is likely to have increased. This year, over half a…

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What drives the epidemic?

What drives the epidemic?

The AIDS epidemic has unfolded very differently in different parts of the world, and among different populations. It is not always clear why HIV infection takes off in some places while rates in neighbouring countries remain stable over many years. However, there are several factors which clearly influence the shape of the epidemic. People on the move–escaping from abuse, or even just leaving their families in search of work–are especially likely to be exposed to infection. People whose daily existence…

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Young escapees on Brazil’s streets

Young escapees on Brazil’s streets

Brazil is a country of contrasts, of great wealth and of crushing poverty from which young people find it hard to escape. Around a third of the 31 million Brazilians aged between 15 and 24 come from families living below the poverty line. Only one adolescent in 12 completes high school, and many of the rest–half of the boys and as many as three-quarters of the girls–remain jobless. Across the country, some two million people aged 15-19 neither work nor…

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HIV–a threat to the world’s young people

HIV–a threat to the world’s young people

This year’s World AIDS Campaign–Young people: Force for change–was prompted in part by the epidemic’s threat to those under 25 years old. Young people are disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS. Around half of new HIV infections are in people aged 15-24, the range in which most people start their sexual lives. In 1998, nearly 3 million young people became infected with the virus, equivalent to more than five young men and women every minute of the day, every day…

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AIDS and business: the bottom line suffers

AIDS and business: the bottom line suffers

The onslaught of AIDS is denting the prospects for economic development too. In the hard-hit countries of Africa, the epidemic is decimating a limited pool of skilled workers and managers and eating away at the economy. With many economies in the region in flux, it is hard to determine exactly what the impact of HIV is on national economies as a whole. However, it is clear that businesses are already beginning to suffer. In Zimbabwe, for instance, life insurance premiums…

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