About AIDS

Epidemic Continues Rampage Elsewhere in the World

Even as we enjoy new optimism about HIV in the US, world news reminds us how lightly we have been impacted as a nation.

Surveys in Rwanda suggest 11 percent of the population is HIV-infected. Devastating tribal warfare also brought rape, prostitution, and forced polygamy, all promoting the virus' spread. Add low condom use and lack of information about sex, as most Rwandans are Catholic and the church is opposed to open discussion of these risk-reduction means.

Namibia has a wicked stew of alcohol and drug abuse, child prostitution and abuse, and teen sex, resulting in burgeoning HIV infection rates. A fledgling safer sex campaign has not changed the attitudes of young people beset by the hopelessness of unemployment, drugs, and unwanted pregnancy.

Infection in eastern India is up 3,000 percent over a decade. Especially hard-hit are heterosexuals, drug users, and refugees spilling in from Thailand and Myanmar. Researchers predict an infection rate of one in 200 by the year 2000. Applying that rate to a national population of a billion people is a terrifying prospect.

Social and economic displacement in Russia, Moldova, and Ukraine has given rise to prostitution and child prostitution as a means of survival, plus drugs to blunt the despair. HIV and STD growth are through the roof, with HIV and syphilis among homeless kids at shocking levels.

Two lessons come immediately to mind. First, epidemics never happen in a vacuum: they occur in the context of significant social change and are often manifestations of serious cultural stress. Second, forget expensive treatments for the poorer world. We must redouble our effort to develop a vaccine, not only for ourselves, but for all humanity.

- Sandy Bartlett, Community Information/Education Coordinator

AIDS Services of Austin

ASA Info Line: 458-AIDS

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