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HIV Cases Hit Record High in 2003


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LONDON - The world is losing the race against the AIDS virus, which last year infected a record 5 million people and killed an unprecedented 3 million, the United Nations reported Tuesday.

The virus has now pushed deep into Eastern Europe and Asia, and tackling it will be more expensive than previously believed, according to the most accurate picture to date of the global status of HIV infections.

The number of people living with HIV has risen in every region. UNAIDS chief Dr. Peter Piot said the deaths and infections were a testament to the world's failure to get prevention and treatment to those who need it.

Nine out of 10 people who urgently need treatment are not getting it, and prevention is only reaching one in five at risk, the report said.

The AIDS epidemic is now entering its globalization phase, Piot said at the launch of the U.N. AIDS agency's report, which is compiled every two years and released ahead of the International AIDS Conference, which kicks off this weekend in Bangkok, Thailand.

"AIDS is truly a disease of our globalized world. Whereas until recently AIDS was largely a problem for sub-Saharan Africa, one out of every four new infections is occurring in Asia today, and the fastest growing epidemic is happening in Eastern Europe," Piot said. "The virus is running faster than all of us."

In revised estimates based on improved information, the report says about 38 million people are infected. Until now, experts had put the ranks of the HIV afflicted at about 40 million.

Although there have been successes and money is starting to flow, the cost of tackling the pandemic has risen. Two years ago, the United Nations predicted that $10 billion a year would be needed by 2005. Now that figure is $12 billion, because of the cost of delaying action and because the planned campaign is now more comprehensive than it has ever been, said Piot.

Less than half that money has been set aside so far.

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