Via the Independent (UK):
A quarter of a century after the outbreak of Aids, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has accepted that the threat of a global heterosexual pandemic has disappeared.
In the first official admission that the universal prevention strategy promoted by the major Aids organisations may have been misdirected, Kevin de Cock, the head of the WHO’s department of HIV/Aids said there will be no generalised epidemic of Aids in the heterosexual population outside Africa.
Dr De Cock, an epidemiologist who has spent much of his career leading the battle against the disease, said understanding of the threat posed by the virus had changed. Whereas once it was seen as a risk to populations everywhere, it was now recognised that, outside sub-Saharan Africa, it was confined to high-risk groups including men who have sex with men, injecting drug users, and sex workers and their clients.
Dr De Cock said: “It is very unlikely there will be a heterosexual epidemic in other countries. Ten years ago a lot of people were saying there would be a generalised epidemic in Asia – China was the big worry with its huge population. That doesn’t look likely. But we have to be careful. As an epidemiologist it is better to describe what we can measure. There could be small outbreaks in some areas.”
In 2006, the Global Fund for HIV, Malaria and Tuberculosis, which provides 20 per cent of all funding for Aids, warned that Russia was on the cusp of a catastrophe. An estimated 1 per cent of the population was infected, mainly through injecting drug use, the same level of infection as in South Africa in 1991 where the prevalence of the infection has since risen to 25 per cent.
Dr De Cock said: “I think it is unlikely there will be extensive heterosexual spread in Russia. But clearly there will be some spread.”
Aids still kills more adults than all wars and conflicts combined, and is vastly bigger than current efforts to address it. A joint WHO/UN Aids report published this month showed that nearly three million people are now receiving anti-retroviral drugs in the developing world, but this is less than a third of the estimated 9.7 million people who need them. In all there were 33 million people living with HIV in 2007, 2.5 million people became newly infected and 2.1 million died of Aids.
Aids organisations, including the WHO, UN Aids and the Global Fund, have come under attack for inflating estimates of the number of people infected, diverting funds from other health needs such as malaria, spending it on the wrong measures such as abstinence programmes rather than condoms, and failing to build up health systems.
Stories like this will further the increasingly loud calls to reduce spending on HIV research and treatment and to redirect funds to other diseases.