January 31, 2003

Bush Targets Top Global Problem – AIDS

With his decision to dramatically increase U.S. overseas spending on the AIDS epidemic, President Bush is addressing a crisis that dominates the concerns of people around the world. The spread of AIDS and other infectious diseases is not just a major crisis in Africa, where the toll from AIDS has been highest. Majorities in 31 of the 44 nations surveyed in the Pew Global Attitudes Project rate the spread of AIDS and other diseases as a major national problem.

No fewer than eight-in-ten in every African country surveyed view the spread of AIDS and other diseases as a top national problem. Yet worry is nearly as great in some Central American countries. Fully 93% in Hondurans say AIDS and other diseases are a major problem in their country. And among Asian nations, broad majorities in India (72%), the Philippines (71%) and Vietnam (69%) rank disease as a very big problem.

Concern about AIDS and infectious diseases is not limited to developing nations. Fully 68% of French and Italians say their countries are facing major problems in these areas, and 54% in Japan agreed. By comparison, concern is significantly lower in Germany (33%), Great Britain (30%) and Canada (31%). Just over four-in-ten Americans (42%) say AIDS and infectious diseases are a major problem for the United States.

Among Eastern Europeans, majorities in Ukraine and Russia see disease as a major problem in their nations (66% and 63%, respectively), but most people in Poland, Bulgaria and the Czech and Slovak Republics rank it as a moderate problem, at most.

Significantly, AIDS and infectious diseases rate higher than ethnic hatred or nuclear weapons among the biggest problems facing the world. The spread of these diseases were a top global concern in 17 of the 44 nations surveyed. Disease outranked other global problems in nine of the ten African nations surveyed, five of eight Latin American countries, as well as in Egypt and Vietnam.

This poll is part of the Pew Global Attitudes Project, a worldwide public opinion survey of more than 38,000 people in 44 countries. The project’s first major report, What the World Thinks in 2002, focusing on how people view their lives, their countries and the world, was released Dec. 4, 2002.