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UN sounds alarm on AIDS
By Paul-Mark Rendon
With a global death toll of close to 35 million, the alarming spread of the AIDS virus has taken hold of the international spotlight, according to a United Nations report released yesterday.
UNAIDS, the UN agency whose mandate it is to combat the worldwide spread of the disease, released the report which paints an ominous picture of the years ahead. The document cited 5.6 million new cases of AIDS this year, with most cases reported in the under-developed areas of Africa and central Asia.
Daniel Brian Gregson, an associate professor of medicine at Western, said the figures are the largest that AIDS researchers have seen since the disease appeared over 20 years ago.
According to Gregson, a likely reason for the increase lies in inaccessibility to education. "The major problem occurs in under-developed countries where there is relatively rapid spread and no access to preventative measures."
Gregson also said he believed the number of AIDS cases could easily reach over 40 million by the year 2000. "The problem with ongoing transmission is not knowledge. The problem is getting populations to undergo changes in behaviour and social circumstance to be able to afford preventative measures," he said.
Jim Lewis, an associate professor of medicine and physiology at Western, agreed the occurence of AIDS was a much bigger problem in under-developed countries than on home soil. "My sense is in more developed countries like Canada, there is a much better handle on this," he said.
Lewis, whose work focuses more on possible treatments of the disease, said the possibility of a cure for AIDS is not in the cards for the time being. "That's a tough question. A timeline is very difficult. There are different strains of the disease that make it difficult to treat," he said.
Lemlem Girmatsion, a second-year social sciences student at Western, said she was concerned by the growth, but understood why they were skyrocketing in the areas of the world pointed out in the report. "Because [developed countries] have better access to medical facilities, I think that's why we have increased awareness to AIDS," she said.