By Anush Dashtents
There are now 153 officially registered carriers of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in Armenia, but the actual figure is at least ten times higher, a senior doctor said on Tuesday. Samvel Grigorian, director of the government Center for AIDS Prevention, said according to his agency’s estimates, the real number of people infected with the virus, which may lead to AIDS, may be 1800.
“In the last two and a half years we have registered more cases [of HIV-AIDS] than in the previous ten years,” Grigorian said.
The overwhelming majority of persons registered with the Center are young males aged between 20 and 40 years. Most of them are said to have contracted HIV through the use of drugs and sexual intercourse. The virus has already degenerated into AIDS among 28 patients.
The HIV-AIDS statistics in Armenia may pale in comparison with the scale of the deadly epidemic elsewhere in the world, but, as Grigorian warned, there is a great risk of a more rapid spread of the disease. Grigorian said the main danger comes from Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet republics where the disease is spreading at a catastrophic rate. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians live and regularly travel there.
Grigorian was speaking to reporters in the United Nations office in Yerevan on the day marked by the UN as the 20th anniversary of the first reported cases of AIDS.
The UN's joint program on HIV-AIDS, UNAIDS, said the disease has emerged as the most devastating epidemic ever and, despite having claimed 22 million lives already, is just in its early stages. The UNAIDS data show that there are more than 36 million people throughout the world now living with HIV-AIDS.
"It was inconceivable that AIDS would spread so rapidly that within the first 20 years it would infect 58 million people, killing 22 million of them," UNAIDS executive director Peter Piot said in a speech in South Africa, according to Reuters.