Magic Johnson announced that he was HIV positive in November of 1991. Now, after 17-years of living with the virus that causes AIDS, Johnson is still alive and apparently going strong; he’s now a studio analyst for ESPN's GMC NBA Countdown program. The success of AIDS drugs and the ability to live a relatively normal life with HIV has perhaps dampened the fear Westerners once had of the disease. Yet, AIDS-related illnesses continue to kill thousands of people every year, and continually more people are infected with this deadly disease.
An estimated 33 million people around the world are infected with HIV, including about 1.2 million people in the US according to the World Health Organization. The US has maintained an infection rate of about .6 percent of the population – 6 people out of every 1000 - every year since the early 1990s. That’s a much higher rate than Sweden with an infection rate of .1 percent, or Japan at less than .1 percent. Still, compared to Kenya, where an estimated 7.1 percent of the general population has the AIDS virus, the US is doing well.
African nations have clearly been the hardest hit by AIDS. South Africa currently has the highest rate of infection at a whopping 18 percent of the population. An estimated 5.5 million people in South Africa are HIV-positive – nearly one out of every five people in the country. The nation’s government has started to admit they have a serious problem and through rigorous programs are hoping to cut the number of new infections in half by 2011. It promises to be a long, hard road.
Iran has admitted that more than 18,000 of its people have tested positive for HIV, and estimates that as many as 100,000 could be infected. The majority of new infections in Iran are in drug users, but a significant number of people picked up the virus through sexual contact. For a country where adultery, homosexuality and prostitution are illegal, that’s an embarrassment. Government officials have been reluctant to talk about AIDS or sex outside of marriage, even to warn the people that the HIV infection rate in their country has nearly doubled since 2001.
While significantly less affected by AIDS than Africa, Europe has seen its rate for new HIV infections double since 2001. Yet, in Africa, campaigns to combat AIDS have had success. In Kenya, the overall rate of infection dropped from 7.4 to 7.1 percent between 2001 and 2007.
Uganda continues to be a success story. It has strongly promoted the message that abstinence, fidelity and condoms are the three ways to best protect against HIV. While Uganda's infection rate is not dropping as fast as it once was, and its people need to continue to make wise choices, Uganda has still seen the number of HIV infected people drop from 1,100,000 to 940,000 between 2001 and 2007. The Ugandan rate of infection fell from an estimated 7.9 percent of the population to 5.4 percent during that time.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has also encouraged its people to remain abstinent and faithful. Yet, the Congo has another serious problem in its midst - the sexual exploitation of women. "Here in the DRC, because of conflict and sexual violence women are the principal victims of HIV/AIDS. We all need to work together so that this plague can be eliminated," noted Dr. Cheikh Diagne, head of the MONUC AIDS unit.
AIDS remains a serious problem around the world and is still a death sentence in countries where drugs and care are not readily available. Freedom from drugs and abstinence / monogamy are the best ways to avoid contracting HIV. The virus is still out there, spreading. People should remain vigilant, even in countries where the infection rate is still relatively low.
South Africa Emerges From AIDS Denial - AP
World Aids Day Celebrated in Kinshasa - AllAfrica.com
Epidemiological Fact Sheets on HIV/AIDS - World Health Organization
Iran: More Than 18,000 HIV-Positive Citizens - USA Today
New HIV Cases Rise in Europe, Led by Portugal, Estonia, Ukraine - Bloomberg
Strategic Trends: Biotech & Global Pestilence - Koinonia House