Worldwide efforts to contain and cure AIDS are making progress, but if nations do not act together to stop its spread in the Third World, as much as 60 percent of poor nations' populations could become infected, experts said at a conference this week.
Agencies such as the World Health Organization must help coordinate efforts to protect the world's blood supply, and promote health policies that combat AIDS without violating its victims' rights, said speakers at the Northwestern Regional Meeting of the National Council for International Health in Boston on Saturday.
Although the AIDS toll is still low in many countries, there is a danger that the virus will spread through transfusions of infected blood from neighboring countries with high AIDS incidence rates, said Donald S. Shepard Ph.D., of Harvard's Institute for International Development. This has already happened in Japan, where transfusions have accounted for more than half of the reported AIDS cases so far, he said.
"We need to do everything we can to protect the blood supply," John Lesar Ph. D., of Management Sciences for Health, an international organization that promotes coordination of health resouces worldwide.
He also said it was important to discourage "sexual grazing" in order to keep the disease from spreading.
A new AIDS test now used only in Zaire may make it easier to test blood donors for the virus, said Shepard. The test costs between one and two dollars, compared to hundreds of dollars for the test now used in the West.
A reduction in the number of infected blood-samples might result from widesread use of the new test, Shepard said.
"We have to promote the donation of blood by such low-risk groups as nuns and schoolchildren, while discouraging the donation of blood by such high-risk groups as prostitues," Laser said.
Dr. Mead Over, economist on population, health and nutrition at the World Bank, said that unless further preventive measures are taken, the disease could devastate the Third World.