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The BBC's Andrew Harding in Nairobi
"Cheaper drugs could soon make a huge difference here"
 real 56k

Friday, 1 December, 2000, 11:49 GMT
Events mark Aids 'catastrophe'
Aids awareness campaign in China
China could have 10 million cases by 2010, UN says
As people around the globe hold events to mark World Aids Day, President Bill Clinton has warned that the disease has reached catastrophic proportions in many parts of the world.

UNAIDS figures for 2000
5.3 million people newly infected with HIV
36.1 million adults living with HIV/Aids
1.4 million children living with HIV/Aids
3 million deaths from Aids
2.4 million deaths from Aids in sub-Saharan Africa
21.8 million deaths from Aids so far
47% of HIV adults are women
He said the spread of Aids was so severe in some regions, it had become a menace to international security and said the United States was committed to finding a cure.

Despite two decades of research there is still no known cure for the disease, and more than 20 million people have already died because of it.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said: "There is no more important issue for us to consider than Aids."

One of the main messages of World Aids Day will be to prevent the spread of the disease by practising safe sex through using condoms.

Aids campaigners in Dhaka
Campaigning in Dhaka: Up to 30,000 Bangladeshis may have HIV
The virus HIV is passed through direct contact with body fluids - most commonly during sex, blood transfusions and by injecting drugs.

It is not regarded as highly contagious but, since its discovery in the early 1980s, the number of people living with the disease has risen to more than 36 million and is expected to rise by another six million over the next year.

China 'epidemic' warning

Officials in China on Friday handed out condoms and newspapers carried articles about Aids victims.

UN experts have warned that although the government understands the size of the problem, China could be facing 10 million cases of HIV/Aids within a decade.

Aids and sex
Over 70% of infections occur through sex between men and women
10% through sex between men
5% among people who inject drugs
80% of injectors are men
Edwin Judd, China representative of the UN Children's Fund (Unicef), said: "China is on the fast track to having a big epidemic.

"Unless there is really substantial action in the next three or four years, the real danger is that we will have 10 million cases in the year 2010 or worse."

In Vietnam, one of Asia's worst-hit countries alongside China, Cambodia and Burma, UN workers and officials launched a campaign intended to increase awareness of HIV and Aids.

Pink buses decorated with condoms and red ribbons took to the streets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City before setting off on a tour of Vietnam's major cities to spread the safe-sex message.

HIV-infected children in South Africa
Infection rates are spiralling out of control
In Australia, children of Aids patients in the city of Melbourne planted a new rose hybrid - the Hope Rose - in a ceremony intended to inspire those who have the disease not to give up.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela urged people in his country, which has one of the world's highest rates of infection, to use condoms and be more open about Aids.

"Give a child love, laughter and peace, not Aids," he said.

Mr Mandela said Aids was threatening the very fabric of South African society. The issue is particularly sensitive in South Africa as his successor, Thabo Mbeki, has questioned the link between HIV and Aids.

Spiralling infection rates

More than three-quarters of the world's Aids related deaths have been recorded in sub-Saharan Africa.

But the United Nations organisation, UNAIDS, says new regions are seeing infection rates spiralling out of control.

Demonstrators outside Smith Kline Beecham protest against pricing policies
Anti-viral drugs are too expensive for developing countries
These include Russia, where there are over a million injecting drug users, and Eastern Europe where drug use and prostitution are on the rise.

In the West, anti-viral drugs that can slow the progress of the disease almost to a halt are routinely used but they are too expensive for developing countries.

And in Western countries health workers are fighting a constant battle against complacency brought about by the success of anti-viral treatments.

There are a number of potential vaccines to prevent infection on trial around the world, but researchers warn that a workable vaccine is at least a decade away.

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See also:

01 Dec 00 | World
In pictures: World Aids Day
01 Dec 00 | Africa
Mandela's stark Aids warning
15 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Aids explodes on trafficking routes
14 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
South-East Asia 'facing Aids crisis'
03 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Drug users fuel Aids explosion
30 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Vietnam set for record drugs trial
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