In a warning issued Tuesday, the United Nations' World Health Organization said unless nations cooperate to defeat it, AIDS will destroy any hope of a better life for tens of millions of people--including noninfected persons--living in abject poverty around the globe. WHO said the world "is far from ready for what is to come," predicting catastrophic social and economic consequences for many communities and countries unless the epidemic's progress is checked.
WHO's annual report on international health is focused this year on AIDS, which is now the leading cause of death among 15- to 59-year-olds worldwide. AIDS is already undermining the U.N.'s millennium goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger by 2015, achieving universal primary education, and reducing maternal and infant mortality and the spread of other diseases, the report said. "Although it has seemed a familiar enemy for the last 20 years, HIV/AIDS is only now beginning to be seen for what it is--a unique threat to human society whose impact will be felt for generations to come," said the report.
The 170-page report, titled "Changing History," included a small note of optimism--it notes that even without a vaccine, an international effort to prevent infections and treat patients with the latest drugs could turn the tide against the epidemic. It cites many cases in the developing world where persons on the brink of death have seen their health restored and their role as active citizens returned thanks to the latest antiretrovirals. Still, of the 6 million people in developing nations who need the drugs, just 400,000 received them last year. (Reuters)