A road sign in Botswana about acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) says "AIDS: Your Problem, Control With Condoms." Africa accounts for more than 70 percent of adults infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the cause of AIDS.
While cases of AIDS have been reported in every nation of the world, the disease affects some countries more than others. More than 95 percent of all HIV-infected people live in the developing world. In these areas, the disease has sapped the populations of young men and women who form the foundation of the labor force. Most die while in the peak of their reproductive years. Moreover, the epidemic has overwhelmed health-care systems, increased the number of orphans, and caused life expectancy rates to plummet. These problems have reached crisis proportions in some parts of the world already burdened by war, political upheaval, or unrelenting poverty.
Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in sub-Saharan Africa, where the number of AIDS cases far exceeds that of all other geographic regions. Of the estimated 14,000 HIV infections that occur each day worldwide, about half of these infections occur in sub-Saharan Africa. About 70 percent of all people infected with HIV live in this region. In some countries in the southern part of the continent, including Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe, more than 30 percent of the population has HIV infection or AIDS.
In Asia and the Pacific Islands an estimated 7.2 million people were living with HIV infection by 2002. Health officials fear that as the virus spreads through China and India, the world's two most populous countries, cases of HIV infection in this region may surge up to 25 million cases by the year 2010, dwarfing the problems seen in sub-Saharan Africa.
In 2002 the Chinese government reported that China had about 1 million HIV-positive people in a population of more than 1 billion. However, public health experts are concerned by the fast-rising number of new infections among intravenous drug users who share infected needles. In 2000 HIV prevalence among intravenous drug users ranged from 44 percent to 85 percent in selected communities of drug users in both Yunnan, in southern China, and Xinjiang, in northwestern China. The incidence of HIV infection will likely be exacerbated by the growing sex industry in China. Surveys indicate that as many as 4 million prostitutes work in China. Of these, four out of ten never use a condom to protect themselves or their clients from HIV infection or other sexually transmitted infections. In rural areas of China the incidence of HIV infection is rising because many poverty-stricken people regularly sell their blood. The people who buy the blood use unsterile methods to draw blood, including reusing contaminated needles, which can spread HIV infection.
In Latin America and the Caribbean region nearly 1.7 million people have been diagnosed with HIV infection or AIDS, twice the incidence in the United States and Canada. Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, and Argentina are the Latin American countries with the highest number of cases of HIV infection or AIDS.