Global threat of AIDS pandemic among heterosexuals over: WHO

London, June 9 (ANI): World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed that the threat posed by HIV/AIDS has finally disappeared among heterosexuals the world over.

Kevin de Cock, the head of the WHO's department of HIV/Aids has claimed that the universal prevention strategy promoted by the major Aids organisations may have been misplaced, and there is no threat of AIDS pandemic in the heterosexual population outside Africa.

Once it was seen as a risk to populations everywhere but now the high-risk groups include men who have sex with men, injecting drug users, and sex workers and their clients.

"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," the Independent quoted de Cock, as saying.

"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," he added.

In 2006, the Global Fund for HIV, Malaria and Tuberculosis cautioned that Russia was at a higher risk of AIDS epidemic.

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.

"I think it is unlikely there will be extensive heterosexual spread in Russia. But clearly there will be some spread," said Dr De Cock.

The data from a joint WHO/UN Aids report revealed 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.

The critics of the global Aids strategy have said that huge amounts of money are being spent educating people about the disease who are not at risk when high-risk groups need to be targeted.

Dr De Cock agreed with the claims and said that there were "elements of truth."

"You will not do much about Aids in London by spending the funds in schools. You need to go where transmission is occurring. It is true that countries have not always been good at that," he said.

He said that gays were at a greater risk of AIDS epidemic

" We face a bit of a crisis [in this area]. In the industrialised world transmission of HIV among men who have sex with men is not declining and in some places has increased.

"In the developing world, it has been neglected. We have only recently started looking for it and when we look, we find it. And when we examine HIV rates we find they are high.

"It is astonishing how badly we have done with men who have sex with men. It is something that is going to have to be discussed much more rigorously," he added. (ANI)

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