World Bank Report Warns of Impending Central & Eastern European AIDS Crises

The World Bank released a report in September highlighting the increasing rate of HIV infection in Central and Eastern Europe, and warned that if governments there do not do more to deal with the problem, it could turn into a catastrophe for that part of the world.

The World Bank estimates that 1.2 million people in Central and Eastern Europe are currently infected with HIV, and that number is growing by as much as 25 percent annually. About a quarter million people in the region, for example, were infected with HIV in 2002. The total number of people infected with HIV in Central and Eastern Europe is expected to rise to 8 million by the end of the decade.

The World Bank warned that if that infection rate is not curtailed, it could have serious widespread effects. In a press release, the World Bank said,

An uncontrolled HIV/AIDS epidemic could have devastating consequences on health and development in ECA, the report warns. If the HIV epidemic becomes widespread among the working age groups in the region, annual economic growth rates could decline by 0.5 to 1.0 percent. The effects of this drop will be compounded by rising health expenditures, which could increase by 1-3 percent, with substantial impacts on the health budgets of poorer countries in the region. Furthermore, the dependency ratio (the ratio of non-economically active to economically active people) could rise, which would severely strain social protection systems.

Despite such warnings, some country’s in the region aren’t doing much to combat the AIDS epidemic. For example, Russia’s total spending on AIDS is less than 1 percent that of Great Britain, even though Russia has 20 times as many HIV infected individuals than Great Britain. Five hundred people a month die from AIDS-related causes in Russia, with that number projected to increase to as much as 20,000 per month by 2020.


Europe’s looming Aids ‘catastrophe’. David Bamford, The BBC, September 16, 2003.

HIV / AIDS Epidemic in the ECA Region. World Bank, September 2003.

Averting AIDS Crises in Europe and Central Asia. Press Release, World Bank, September 16, 2003.

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