GRIM TOLL IN RUSSIA, INDIA, AND CHINA
HIV/AIDS is a disease at once amazingly virulent and shockingly new. Only a generation ago, it lay undetected. Yet in the past two decades, by the reckoning of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), about 65 million people have contracted the illness, and perhaps 25 million of them have already died. The affliction is almost invariably lethal: scientists do not consider a cure to be even on the horizon. For now, it looks as if AIDS could end up as the coming century's top infectious killer.
At present, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, though global, is overwhelmingly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa. Although this situation has exacted a terrible human cost, the rest of the world has been largely unaffected by Africa's tragedy. Things will be very different, however, in the next major area of HIV infection. Eurasia (which for the purposes of this essay is considered to be the territory encompassing the continent of Asia, plus Russia) will likely be home to the largest number of HIV victims in the decades ahead. Driven by the spread of the disease in the region's three largest countries -- China, India, and Russia -- the coming Eurasian pandemic threatens to derail the economic prospects of billions and alter the global military balance. And although the devastating costs of HIV/AIDS are clear, it is unclear that much will be done to head off the looming catastrophe.
Today HIV/AIDS is decimating sub-Saharan Africa. According
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