Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública
Print version ISSN 1020-4989
MERTENS, T. E. and LOW-BEER, D.. HIV and AIDS: where is the epidemic going?. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 1997, vol.1, n.3, pp. 220-229. ISSN 1020-4989. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49891997000300009.
Routine surveillance of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection and AIDS has been established over the past decade in many countries around the world. HIV estimates derived from empirical data are essential to the assessment of the HIV situation in different parts of the world and trends are used in tracking the development of regional epidemics, thereby keeping intervention activities focused on realities. As of the end of 1995, and following an extensive country-by-country review of HIV/AIDS data, a cumulative total of 6 million AIDS cases were estimated to have occurred in adults and children worldwide and currently 20.1 million adults are estimated to be alive and infected with HIV or have AIDS. Of the total prevalent HIV infections, the majority remain concentrated in eastern, central and southern Africa, but the epidemic is evolving with spread of infection from urban to rural areas, as well as to West and South Africa, India and Southeast Asia, and to a lesser extent¾with proportional shifts to heterosexual infections¾in North America, Western Europe and Latin America. While the longer-term dimensions of the HIV epidemic at global level cannnot be forecast with confidence, WHO currently projects a cumulative total of close to 40 million HIV infections in men, women and children by the year 2000. By that time, the male:female ratio of new infections will be close to 1:1. Recent trends indicate that HIV prevalence levels may be stabilizing or even decreasing among pregnant women in southern Zaire and parts of Uganda, among military recruits aged 21 in Thailand, and in some populations of northern Europe and the USA. While these changes may take place as part of the intrinsic dynamic of the epidemic, there is some evidence that declines in HIV prevalence are related to declines in HIV incidence which are, at least partly, due to prevention efforts. The challenge of surveillance and evaluation methods is now to identify the ingredients of success which may reveal a glimmer of hope.