AIDS and Eurasia
Over the past few weeks, there have been a few op-ed pieces
concerning an important article by Nicholas Eberstadt in the
November/December issue of Foreign Affairs. Professionally,
what ticks me off is that not everyone is then giving Eberstadt his
proper due on a topic with immense implications for the world
economy, let alone from a humanitarian standpoint, that being
the issue of AIDS in Eurasia.
Eberstadt, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute,
defines Eurasia as the continent of Asia plus Russia. The topic
of AIDS in this region was in the news in a big way just about a
week ago with Bill Gates’s announcement that he was donating
$100 million to fight AIDS in India. Coupled with Russia and
China, these three countries are of most concern.
To summarize, current estimates of those infected with HIV are
as follows (using both UN and CIA estimates).
Russia: 1-2 million
China: 1.5-2 million
India: 5-8 million
But by 2025, these numbers will have soared, in the case of India
to at least 25 million. It’s also important to note that all
projections related to AIDS have proved to be on the
conservative side, whether it was with the number infected or
In Russia one of the keys to the outbreak has been the prison
population. One million are in the system giant incubation
camps for HIV. Compounding this problem is the fact that
300,000 of the inmates are then released each year that’s
300,000 who then go home and infect many in their town.
Russia also has a huge intravenous drug problem, along with an
increasingly infected class of prostitutes. And when it comes to
government aid to combat the issue, it is hard to believe that
Russia spends only $6 million a year, while the U.S. spends $6
billion. In actuality, Russia isn’t even spending this pitiful
By 2025, the AIDS pandemic could result in an actual decrease
in life expectancy in Russia, India, and China. Certainly the
experience of sub-Saharan Africa doesn’t offer much help in this
regard. Adult infection rates in this region now exceed 30% in 4
countries, with a staggering 40% in Botswana alone. With no
real cure in sight, almost all of them will die.
Eberstadt estimates that a “mild” epidemic in the three countries
he is focusing on would result in 66 million new cases between
2000 and 2025, with 43 million deaths. A “severe” epidemic
would result in at least 155 million deaths, based on 259 million
The projections for total population in the Eurasian nations
would thus decline significantly by 2025. Under an
“intermediate” epidemic scenario
China would go from 1.46 billion, without AIDS, to 1.39 billion;
India, 1.38 billion to 1.30 billion; Russia, 140 million to 120
million (though Russia’s population was projected to decline,
anyway, for a number of other factors).
The conclusion that can then be reached from a strictly economic
standpoint is that these trends obviously spell disaster. Eberstadt
predicts that growth in India and China, for example, could be
reduced by a full third over the next 25 years, i.e., a 6% projected
rate becomes 4%. Russia’s economy would most likely totally
stagnate. The political implications of this are severe.
*Hott Spotts will return on December 5.