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World AIDS Conference Starts Today in Spain

Aired July 7, 2002 - 07:29   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Now more on that International AIDS Conference we reported on earlier. New figures show 40 million people are living with HIV, that virus that causes AIDS, but in the U.S. there is some encouraging news.

CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is attending that conference in Barcelona, Spain -- Sanjay, not a bad location for a conference.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, it is beautiful here, no question, a little bit hot, but a beautiful day. You're right, Kyra, there's been some interesting data that's come out of this conference. About a million people in the United States now have AIDS, have HIV or AIDS.

Interestingly, 400,000 to 500,000 of them are either untreated, undiagnosed or both. The encouraging part is that since between '94 and '98 the rates of new infections of HIV did go down. They did go down from about 22,000 a year to about 16,000.

Now compare that to now, where the numbers have just stabilized. They really haven't changed at all since '98. Interestingly as well, of the heterosexual population that has contracted AIDS, 75 percent of them are African-American, of which 50 percent are African-American women.

So some of these statistics are, no question, alarming, Kyra.

There have been a lot of reasons given as to why the rates have not continued to decrease. No question there's good medications out there. People cite access to treatment as being a problem, especially in some of the underrepresented communities. People also cite a little bit harder to describe, but the people also cite apathy. People are so convinced that the medications are going to work, that risky behavior started to go up. Preventative mechanisms started to go down. And for that reason, we have seen no further decreases in the number of new HIV infections.

PHILLIPS: Sanjay, for those that are taking the drugs, are they living longer or not?

GUPTA: Yes, you know, it's interesting. With the drugs, and like I said, they're really good drugs out there, AIDS has gone from being an immediate death sentence, which is what it was for a long time, to more of a chronic, manageable disease. But that does not mean that the medications can be avoided, can be -- their side effects, these medications, but they have to be taken.

It also means that those people are still potentially contagious. They need to engage in preventative mechanisms, and not engage in risky sexual behavior, IV drug abuse, blood donations, things like that, that have lead to a stabilization of the numbers, certainly not a continued decrease in the numbers, but around the world, the numbers have become much worse because of some of those behaviors.

PHILLIPS: Now you've talked a lot about AIDS in the U.S. What about the rest of the world? There was so much focus on Africa for such a long time. Still is.

GUPTA: Yes, you know. And we're hearing a lot about them. And some of the scenarios are pretty bleak here. I don't think there's any better way to say it than that. I'll give you an example. There's about 40 million people around the world, as you mentioned, infected. 28 million, about 70 percent, live in Africa. So that's no question one of the hardest hit places in the world.

Russia has the fastest growing epidemic of AIDS right now. That's -- people say that's because of IV drug use. The IV drug use is so rampant, that Russia's actually the fastest growing place. We're starting to see unbelievable epidemics just beginning now in China as well, where they say 17 percent of people don't even know what AIDS is. So clearly an education problem in some places in Asia.

But yes, the United States, an industrialized nation, sees no doubt its share of AIDS problems. But if you look at the rest of the world, the problems are so much more enormous. And that is one of the primary focuses here at this conference.

PHILLIPS: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, live from Barcelona. Good to see you, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Thank you.

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