AIDS Number One Killer Among Infectious Diseases

About AIDS

In the U.S. we sometimes get complacent about AIDS when we see that our death rate has fallen by over half in the last couple of years, but then reality slaps us in the face when the rest of the world comes into view. Last week the World Health Organization acknowledged that AIDS has become the leading cause of death from infectious disease, finally beating out mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB). About 2.5 million people died from AIDS last year alone, bringing the decade's total to over 14 million. Some African nations are so affected that average life expectancy may fall from 64 years to 47 by the year 2015.

Heart attack, stroke, and respiratory infections are the world's most common three causes of death, with AIDS as number four among all diseases, and number one among infectious diseases.

Africa, like the United States, is reluctant to talk openly about sex, so it is difficult to effect the necessary behavior changes which would curb HIV transmission. The socio-political culture of machismo and disempowerment of women, coupled with ignorance and scarce public health resources, are formidable obstacles. But unless sub-Saharan nations are willing to lose a significant portion of two generations, behavior modification is the only available route, because a vaccine is going to be a long time coming.

-- Sandy Bartlett, Community Information/Education Coordinator, AIDS Services of Austin

ASA Info Line: 458-AIDS, E-mail: [email protected]

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