Dr De Cock said: “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. 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.”
In 2006, the Global Fund for HIV, Malaria and Tuberculosis, which provides 20 per cent of all funding for Aids, warned that Russia was on the cusp of a catastrophe. 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.
Dr De Cock said: “I think it is unlikely there will be extensive heterosexual spread in Russia. But clearly there will be some spread.”
Aids still kills more adults than all wars and conflicts combined, and is vastly bigger than current efforts to address it. A joint WHO/UN Aids report published this month showed 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.