The AIDS epidemic is devastating the economic prospects of the world's poorest countries, condemning millions of young people to a bleak future of unemployment and poverty, according to a new report.
Between 1992 and 2004, 31 countries in sub-Saharan Africa lost a total of more than 1m jobs every year due to the epidemic, as their economies grew more slowly.
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The International Labour Organisation, which produced the report, said HIV/AIDS killed almost 3.5 million people of working age last year.
The vast majority of the estimated 36.3 million people living with HIV/AIDS globally are in sub-Saharan Africa, already the most deprived region on the planet.
In a speech to mark World AIDS Day, the UN's secretary general, Kofi Annan, said politicians and individuals must consider themselves personally accountable for stopping the spread of the disease.
"It requires every one of us to help bring AIDS out of the shadows and spread the message that silence is death," he said.
Last year, more than 3 million people - 75% in sub-Saharan Africa - were unable to work because of illness due to AIDS.
The economic slowdown has hit young people hardest, with unemployment up to three times higher than for adults.
Young people stuck in the poverty trap are also at higher risk of contracting the disease, accounting for half of all new HIV infections. An estimated 5,000 to 6,000 people aged between 15 and 24 acquire HIV every day.
The report also focuses on the damage the epidemic is having on children, forcing them into child labour and ultimately preventing them from being able to find productive jobs as adults.
Often children are forced to seek work early after their parents are left dead or incapacitated from the disease, robbing them of an education and putting them at greater risk of contracting the virus themselves.
A survey in Uganda in 2004showed 95 per cent of children in HIV-affected households had some kind of job - and 16per cent worked day and night.
Girls in particular risk being sexually abused and being infected at work, especially those working as prostitutes.
The ILO added studies had shown most men and women working in the sex industry began in their teens or early 20s.
"Mortality losses to the labour force, illness and lack of access to antiretroviral treatment (ARVs) are jeopardising the ability of the worst affected countries to lift themselves out of poverty," the report said.
The ILO argues that "forceful measures" were needed to increase access to ARVs - and said a key aim was making them available at work.
Without better treatment, the future looks bleak. By 2020, losses to the global labour force due to the epidemic are set to reach 86 million a year, compared to an estimated 28 million for 2005.
Better access to drugs could cut that figure by up to a quarter.
"The prospect of averting between one fifth and one quarter of potential new losses of the labour force should serve as a powerful incentive to target the workplace as a major entry point to achieve universal access to ARVs," the survey said.
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