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New Report Warns East European and CIS Policy Makers about the Risks of a Generalized HIV/AIDS Epidemic
Moscow, 17 February, 2004.
The report, entitled “Reversing the Epidemic: Facts and Policy Options”, offers HIV/AIDS profiles for the countries of the region, describes high-risk groups and the behaviours that make them vulnerable to infection, and discusses why human rights is an essential ingredient for fighting the epidemic. The report also touches upon the issues of decriminalising injecting drug use and undertaking comprehensive prison reform. The inclusion of marginalized groups in policy processes is also considered a key element in the response to HIV/AIDS.
Despite a comparatively low prevalence in the region, growth rates in new HIV infections reported over the last several years in Estonia, Russia and Ukraine are among the world’s highest. Upwards of one out of every one hundred adults living in these three countries is now estimated to be carrying the virus—a threshold above which efforts to turn back the epidemic have failed in many other countries. Also, if not curbed, the disease will threaten development prospects in Eastern Europe and the CIS.
GDP growth affected by HIV/AIDS
According to the report, the disease threatens to affect the region’s prospects for economic growth and human development. The epidemic will put new strains on already overburdened social protection systems. Premature morbidity and mortality in age cohorts with high productive capacities could reduce annual GDP growth by one full percentage point, a tremendous impact for any country. Increased health expenditures associated with treating people living with AIDS could consume one to three percentage points of annual GDP. These figures represent particular challenges for the poorest CIS countries.
Good Governance—a part of the response
The risk of not responding decisively
A number of countries in Central and South-Eastern Europe, such as Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia have recorded important successes in halting or reversing the spread of the epidemic. They have been able to leverage progress in building vibrant democracies into effective responses to HIV/AIDS. At the same time, a relatively successful transition outcome does not in itself guarantee an effective response, as is apparent in the case of Estonia, which combines one of the region’s most successful transitions with some of its highest HIV prevalence rates.
“All experts concur that delays are disastrous when dealing with HIV/AIDS. Just as in some CIS countries today, only twelve years ago South Africa too saw less than 1% of its adult population infected—now that rate is twenty times higher. It is already too late to speak of avoiding a crisis in Eastern Europe and the CIS. Nevertheless, there is still much that governments and civil societies can do to reduce the social, demographic and economic consequences of HIV/AIDS and even reverse the epidemic,” said Kalman Mizsei, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director for Europe and the CIS.
For more information, please contact Ms. Sandra Pralong, , + 421-908-729846 or Mr. Shombi Sharp, , + (7095) 787-2164; or 8916 380 8900
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