U.N.: AIDS May Kill 80M Africans by 2025

By ANTHONY MITCHELL, Associated Press Writer

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia - More than 80 million Africans may die from AIDS by 2025, the United Nations said in a report released Friday, and infections could soar to 90 million - or more than 10 percent of the continent's population - if more isn't done soon to fight the disease.

More than 25 million African have been infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. UNAIDS estimated that nearly $200 billion is needed to save 16 million people from death and 43 million people from becoming infected, but donors have pledged nowhere near that amount.

In its report, "AIDS in Africa," the U.N. agency examines three potential scenarios for the continent in the next 20 years depending on the international community's response.

Researchers determined that even with massive funding and better treatment, the number of Africans who will die from AIDS is likely to top 67 million in the next two decades.

"What we do today will change the future," concluded the report, drawn up by some of the world's leading experts on HIV and AIDS. "These scenarios demonstrate that, while societies will have to deal with AIDS for some time to come, the extent of the epidemic's impact will depend on the responses and investment now."

The three scenarios include a best-case situation, a middle-case and a doomsday scenario. They all warn that the worst of the epidemic's impact is still to come.

"There is no single policy prescription that will change the outcome of the epidemic," the report stated. "The death toll will continue to rise no matter what is done."

Under the worst-case scenario, experts have plotted current policies and funding over the next two decades.

"It offers a disturbing window on the future death toll across the continent, with the cumulative number of people dying from AIDS increasing more than fourfold," it says. "The number of children orphaned by the epidemic will continue to rise beyond 2025."

While there is no cure for HIV or AIDS, anti-retroviral drugs can allow sufferers to live a normal life. Such drugs, though, are too expensive for most Africans, who live on less than a dollar a day and don't have access to modern health care.

Experts have said donors' money needs to be spent to train more health workers, develop better clinics and subsidize medications as well as promote more prevention programs.

AIDS already has a devastating impact on Africa.

UNAIDS has reported that life expectancy in nine countries has
dropped to below 40 because of the disease. There are already 11 million orphans because of AIDS, while 6,500 people are dying each day. In 2004, 3.1 million Africans were newly infected, the agency said.

"If by 2025, millions of African people are still becoming infected with HIV each year, these scenarios suggest that it will not be because there was no choice," the report said. "It will be because, collectively, there was insufficient political will to change behavior at all levels, from the institution, to the community, to the individual, and halt the forces driving the AIDS epidemic in Africa."

Hundreds of experts and people living with the virus helped draw up the report.