AIDS growth fast in former USSR

MOSCOW -- Eastern Europe and the republics of the former Soviet Union are fast becoming the new battleground against AIDS, with teen-agers the hardest hit, according to a U.N. report on the epidemic published Wednesday.

Russia has seen the number of people infected with HIV double almost annually, U.N. officials said at a news conference in Moscow. Ukraine became the first nation in Europe to report that 1 percent of its adult population is HIV-positive.

"The epidemic is rising faster in Eastern Europe than anywhere else in the world and it is still in its early stages," said Peter Piot, executive director of the Joint U.N. Program on HIV/AIDS, which operates in more than 100 countries.

Economic insecurity, high unemployment and deteriorating health services throughout Eastern Europe are behind the steep rise, U.N. officials said. Most of those affected are young people, who are spreading HIV by injecting drugs and through unsafe sexual encounters.

"It is a teen-age epidemic -- teen-agers experimenting with drugs, teen-agers experimenting with sex," Piot said.