- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 4, 2002

Between 65 million and 100 million people will die of AIDS by the year 2020, far greater than previously predicted, health officials said yesterday before an international AIDS conference in Barcelona that opens this weekend.
The pessimism was generated by a report by UNAIDS, the U.N. agency dedicated to the disease. The organization predicted on Tuesday that about 65 million people will die of AIDS by 2020. About 22 million already have died since the disease was identified in the early 1980s.
But a former senior U.S. health official, Dr. Nils Daulaire, said in an interview yesterday that the U.N. estimate was conservative and as many as 100 million will die of AIDS in the next 18 years.
Dr. Daulaire, a former top health official at the U.S. Agency for International Development who is head of the Global Health Council, and U.N. experts on AIDS, said earlier predictions about the disease peaking or being contained by prevention and other means had proven false.
"Collectively, we have grossly, grossly underestimated how bad this was going to be," Dr. Peter Piot, head of UNAIDS, said at a news conference Tuesday.
"Despite assumptions of scientists that this epidemic will reach some natural saturation level, to say the least, we are not there yet. It's clear that we are only at the beginning of this epidemic, the largest epidemic in human history."
Dr. Daulaire said the gloomy U.N. report issued Monday, detailing the continued spread of the disease in hard-hit sub-Saharan Africa as well as in Asia, was expected.
"I am totally unsurprised," he said.
"People who follow the epidemic closely recognize it is very far from having peaked. No one fully knows when it will peak, but certainly not in the near future."
"When you look at the history of the projections on HIV/AIDS, almost without fail those projections turned out to be conservative projections. Ten years ago, people talked about 30 to 40 million cumulative infections by 2000. The actual number was 60 million."
Dr. Daulaire said about 40 million to 45 million people are infected and 95 percent of them will be dead by 2020.
"And in that 18-year period it would be conservative to estimate that 90 million people would be infected it could be closer to 120 million, depending on what the world does. Half of those with new infections will have died by 2020."
Adding the 45 million infected to half of the 90 million predicted infections totals 90 million deaths far more than the 65 million deaths forecast by UNAIDS.
"If we get a vaccine, get more effective programs to fight AIDS, the number could change," Dr. Daulaire said.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for $7 billion to $10 billion a year to fight AIDS. So far, donor nations have pledged about $2 billion, including $500 million from the United States.


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