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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

World Bank: AIDS Threatening Economies

World Bank experts warned Tuesday that certain regions of Eastern Europe and Central Asia face an explosive AIDS epidemic that endangers the economic progress of the region.

"The Eastern Europe and Central Asia region is experiencing the world's fastest-growing HIV/AIDS epidemic," the World Bank said in a report.

"Among the more severely effected parts are the Baltic states, the Russian Federation, Moldova and Belarus," Olusoji Adeyi, the organization's leading health specialist for the region, told journalists and officials in Moscow by video link from Washington.

The World Bank says 1.2 million people are living with HIV or AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

In 2002, there were an estimated 250,000 new infections in the region.

Annette Dixon, director of operations in Europe and Central Asia, warned that the economic and social gains made in the region since the fall of the Soviet Union could be reversed if the spread of AIDS is not checked.

"In the face of nonaction we will see reduced levels of economic growth, increased levels of poverty and many of the other social and economic stresses related with uncontrolled AIDS epidemics," Dixon said.

She said some countries are refusing to recognize the prevalence of the disease. In Belarus in particular, there is a "lack of any serious commitment" from officials to tackle the epidemic, she said.