Report says worldwide AIDS crisis is getting worse

June 18, 2002

An arm of the Central Intelligence Agency has reported that the AIDS pandemic will rapidly worsen, with the number of cases possibly doubling in sub-Saharan Africa in the next five years.

The National Intelligence Council, which studies issues of long-term strategic interest to the U.S. government, based its conclusion on figures in Nigeria and Ethiopia. Together they account for nearly a third of the population in the region, with 200 million people.

The analysts at the agency are particularly concerned about sharp increases in HIV and AIDS in India, the second most populous nation on earth, where a large percentage of uneducated people and political leadership hasn't begun to destigmatize the disease that now affects an estimated three million people. The same mix of factors was deadly in the first wave of the crisis in Africa. The pandemic is now entering a 'stage of substantial increases in size and scope,' according to a senior official.

About 40 million people are infected with HIV or AIDS. It is already the deadliest disease in human history. About 23 million people have died from the disease, far more than in the 14th century European plague known as the Black Death. Those who are dying are often people in the prime of their lives, so it is having a disastrous impact on economic growth, education and health systems.

The council has considerable credibility among the world's leading health officials for projecting trends in the disease. It was the lone voice in the U.S. government a decade ago, for example, in predicting 45 million HIV infections by the year 2000.

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