UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- HIV and AIDS infection rates are skyrocketing in much of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, with young people comprising the majority of new cases, the U.N. Children's Fund warned in a report released Wednesday.
Nearly 80 percent of newly registered infections from 1997-2000 in the Commonwealth of Independent States -- the grouping of former Soviet republics -- occurred among people under the age of 29, according to UNICEF's report, the Social Monitor 2002.
"HIV/AIDS has a young face in this region," UNICEF director Carol Bellamy said in a statement. "Young people account for most new infections and their low level of HIV awareness, combined with increasingly risky behavior, herald a catastrophe."
UNICEF reports that abuse of injected drugs accounts for most of the region's infections of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. However, it noted that sexual transmission is on the rise in Belarus and Ukraine.
The total number of infections in the region more than doubled from 420,000 in 1998 to 1 million in 2001. While that is small compared with the 28.5 million HIV-infected people in sub-Saharan Africa, the rate of increase in some Eastern European and CIS countries is the world's highest.
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