Global AIDS Pandemic Is ‘Rapidly’ Worsening, National Intelligence Council Says
The AIDS pandemic is beginning a "stage of substantial increases in size and scope" and will "rapidly" worsen in the coming years, according to a panel of experts who recently attended a National Intelligence Council discussion on global infectious diseases at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., the Boston Globe reports. Analysts with the NIC, a branch of the CIA that studies issues of long-term strategic interest to the United States government, based their conclusions on "worrisome figures" on HIV/AIDS from Nigeria and Ethiopia, where nearly a third of sub-Saharan Africa's population lives and where more than 5% of the adult population has HIV. The experts noted that 5% prevalence may be a "tipping point," as the HIV prevalence rate in other African nations "soared into double digits" shortly after reaching the 5% mark. "Nigeria and Ethiopia may be at the takeoff point, where the epidemic becomes much, much, much more serious in the next five years," David Gordon, NIC officer on economics and health issues, said. In addition, the panel voiced "particula[r] concer[n]" about possible "sharp increases" in the number of people with HIV or AIDS in India, the second-most populous nation worldwide. According to the analysts, India has a high percentage of people without formal education and a government that has not "adequately begun to destigmatize" HIV/AIDS, the "same mix of factors" that led to the African HIV/AIDS crisis. The NIC has a "strong track record" for forecasting worldwide HIV/AIDS trends, according to the Globe, and its projections will likely be given "considerable weight" among international health officials. The NIC, the "lone voice" in the U.S. government to call attention to HIV/AIDS 10 years ago, in 1991 predicted that 45 million people worldwide would have HIV or AIDS by 2000; approximately 40 million people worldwide currently have HIV or AIDS.
Policymakers at the World Health Organization, the World Bank and UNAIDS said that NIC's projections are likely "on target." UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said that the NIC estimates were "close to his thinking" about the progression of the disease. "When I look at the epidemic, I see that even Southern Africa has not reached a natural limit," Piot said, adding, "In Nigeria and Ethiopia, there should be the start of massive programs." Jim Yong Kim, a Harvard University infectious disease specialist, said that NIC's report "blew [him] away." He added, "The NIC is the best at looking at HIV prevalence rates and projecting into the future, and if these guys are right about Nigeria and Ethiopia, its more shocking news about the pandemic. I think it puts much more urgency to moving quickly" on the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Donnelly, Boston Globe, 6/16). Audio archives of the panel discussion are available online at the Institute of Medicine Web site.
A kaisernetwork.org HealthCast of a meeting of the Center for Strategic and International Studies HIV/AIDS Task Force is available online. The task force on Thursday debated a set of recommendations to improve U.S. leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS worldwide. The specific recommendations include: increasing U.S. assistance; challenging key partners; responding to the destabilizing consequences of HIV/AIDS; developing a treatment strategy and future vaccine; enlarging the capacities of the Global Fund; improving the coordination of U.S. efforts; and communicating America's purpose to the American people.
Global AIDS Spotlight
Kaisernetwork.org will feature special coverage of the XIV International AIDS Conference, taking place in Barcelona, Spain, July 7-12, including Webcasts of select sessions and press conferences, interviews with newsmakers and perspectives from the AIDS frontlines. Coverage will also include in-depth segments on HIV prevention and treatment and the status of the pandemic, including the steady spread of the virus into Hispanic and African-American communities and populations such as women and children, both in the United States and worldwide. To find out more about how you can make this information available to your colleagues and constituents through your Web sites, listservs and newsletters, please visit http://www.kaisernetwork.org/aids2002, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call kaisernetwork at (202) 347-5270.