Efforts to Treat Hiv/Aids are Yielding Positive Results

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Global efforts to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS are showing optimistic results, but
transformative efforts are needed to accelerate progress, according
to the latest report
released today by the United Nations agency leading the fight against the
disease.

The Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic 2011, produced by the Joint UN Programme
on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), shows there has been a significant decrease in infection
rates and HIV-related deaths, as well as an increase in the number of people who
have access to treatment.

HIV infections rates are at their lowest since the peak of the epidemic in 1997,
with 2.7 million new infections in 2010, mainly due to changes in young people’s
sexual behaviour, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

Twenty-one high-prevalence countries reported declines in HIV occurrence among
people aged 15 to 24 last year, as opposed to 16 countries in 2009. The most
pronounced falls happened in countries in sub-Saharan Africa such as Botswana,
Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Togo
and Zimbabwe.

UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Paul De Lay told the UN News Centre that
behavioural changes – which include the use of condoms, having fewer sexual
partners, and young people waiting longer before becoming sexually active – were
the main causes for progress in Africa. The region, however, continues to be the
most heavily affected, with 68 per cent of people living with HIV residing in
sub-Saharan Africa.

The report also shows an increase in the number of people living with HIV
worldwide – now at an estimated 34 million, up 17 per cent from 2001. Although
the rise in this figure partly reflects new HIV infections, it is also a result
of increased access to antiretroviral therapy, which has helped reduce
AIDS-related deaths. Presently, 6.6 million people in low- and middle-income
countries – almost half of the people eligible for treatment – have access to
antiretroviral therapy.

The report also estimates that a total of 2.5 million deaths have been averted
in low and middle-income countries since 1995 due to antiretroviral therapy,
with 700,000 AIDS-related deaths averted in 2010 alone.

Mr. De Lay added that scientific breakthroughs have shown how people receiving
treatment also become less infectious with time, decreasing the risk of
infection for their partners and lowering the chances of transmission from
mothers to newborns.

Mr. De Lay said the progress in recent years is notable since it has occurred in
spite of funding cuts due to the global economic crisis. Last year, funding from
donor countries went from $7.6 billion to $6.9 billion, representing a 10 per
cent reduction.

“One of the things that the report focuses on is how countries can spend the
amount they have now in a much smarter way so they get more impact,” Mr. De Lay
said, expressing concern for the decrease in funding not only from international
donors but from foundations and internal institutions in countries with high
infection rates.

In addition, UNAIDS stressed in its report that although the data points to
incremental progress, a transformative response is needed to meet the 2015
targets set by Member States in June through the Political Declaration on
HIV/AIDS, and to support the vision of zero new HIV infections, zero
discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths in the near future.

“We need to move from a short-term, piecemeal approach to a long-term strategic
response with matching investment,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of
UNAIDS.

“The world faces a clear choice: maintain current efforts and make incremental
progress, or invest smartly and achieve rapid success in the AIDS response,”
says the UNAIDS report, calling for an increase in smart strategies and
commitment from countries.

The report also maps a new framework for AIDS investments, which focuses on
getting high impact and high-value strategies. The framework is based on several
elements, including focusing interventions for populations at higher risk such
as sex workers and people who inject drugs; promoting behavioural change
programmes; and increasing treatment and care for people living with HIV.
Nov 21 2011 11:10AM

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