REVIEW – April 2005

HI virus infection as a global problem


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According to any standards, current efforts to reduce the HIV/AIDS epidemic are inadequate; the number of newly infected cases, especially in developing countries, is growing steadily. As of the end of 2004, UNAIDS estimated that 39 million adults and children were suffering from HIV/AIDS. More than 90% of the infected persons live in developing countries, while 70% of the cases occur in Sub-Saharan Africa. The impact of HIV infection is different in different regions of the world and depends mainly, but not exclusively, on the socioeconomic conditions of the region. In the US and Western Europe, HIV infection is not an acute killing disease but has became, owing to the widespread availability of antiretroviral therapy (ARV), a chronic illness requiring lifelong treatment. The growing number of viruses that are resistant to ARV and the increasing number of subjects with treatment related side effects are the main issues in the countries of Western Europe and the US face at present. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most seriously affected region and in most part of it the epidemic is still expanding. HIV infection there is still a rapidly progressing deadly disease. In 2004, 2.3 million Africans died of AIDS alone, constituting 80% of global total. Although treatment and care efforts have been intensified in many African countries, only 10% of AIDS patients receive effective ARV therapies. Thus, stopping of the rapid growth of the epidemic and provision of effective treatment to as many patients as possible remain the main tasks for African countries in their fight with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In Eastern Europe, until the mid-1990s, the screening of different populations indicated low levels of HIV infection. However, recently, part of the former Soviet Union, has undergone the fastest growth of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the world. Although, the majority of the infections, have been identified in injection drug users. However, heterosexual contact has begun to eclipse it as the primary mode of transmission reflecting the spread beyond the IDU community. Uncontrolled increase in the number of newly infected persons, the increasing number of persons in whom HIV infection is developing into AIDS as well as the increasing need for health care services are the major issues to be addressed in that region. The future of HIV/AIDS will require research and development of new prevention tools, including microbiocides and vaccines that can be made available worldwide.