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Africa Action Welcomes New Stats on AIDS

Africa Action Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Marie Clarke Brill (202) 546-7961

Africa Action Welcomes New Statistics on Global AIDS Pandemic

UNAIDS reports worldwide HIV prevalence has leveled off; pandemic
continues to devastate Africa

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 (Washington, DC) – Africa Action welcomes
the revised estimates of the global AIDS pandemic published yesterday by
the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World
Health Organization (WHO) but cautions that HIV/AIDS still has severe
impacts on Africa. The report shows that sub-Saharan African countries
are home to 68 % of the people living with HIV worldwide. According to
the new data, eight countries in the region comprise almost one-third of
all new HIV infections and AIDS deaths globally, and HIV/AIDS remains
the leading cause of death in the region. Africa Action warns that this
new report should not be misinterpreted to indicate that current funding
levels and the international response are adequate to address the pandemic.

“We certainly appreciate not only the advances in collecting data on
individuals living with HIV/AIDS but also the obvious successes brought
by international and national investments in treatment and prevention,”
said Gerald LeMelle, Executive Director of Africa Action. “However, the
number of new HIV infections remains staggeringly high, and AIDS
continues to kill close to two million Africans each year who lack
access to lifesaving treatment. More resources are still needed to
continue to scale up treatment and comprehensive prevention programs to
meet international demand, to build on recent successes and to
effectively employ this new data.”

The UNAIDS/WHO report puts the number of annual new HIV infections at
2.5 million, a cut of more than 40 percent from last year's estimate.
The worldwide total of people living with HIV – estimated a year ago at
nearly 40 million – now will be reported as just over 33 million. Though
the numbers of new infections are falling, the total number of HIV
positive individuals continues to rise. Today Africa Action called for
at least $50 billion over the next five years in U.S. funding for the
reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief
(PEPFAR) to expand comprehensive prevention programs, support the U.S.
fair share of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
and achieve the promise of universal treatment access.

“Civil society groups across Africa remind us that the numbers used to
estimate those living with HIV/AIDS must take into account the lack of
testing in many areas and the stigma that prevents many of those who are
HIV positive from coming forward. In countries that are running out of
burial space and where morgues are so overwhelmed that they have to stay
open for twenty-four hours for fear of the bodies piling up, these new
statistics offer little consolation,” said Marie Clarke Brill, Deputy
Director of Africa Action. “What is needed now is action from the U.S.
and the international community to commit the resources to achieve
universal access to treatment.”

According to the report, the revisions came mainly from better
measurements rather than from fundamental shifts in the pandemic. The
UNAIDS/WHO report shows that reductions in new infections among young
people in a number of countries and the reduction in deaths from AIDS
globally can to a large part be attributed to increased comprehensive
evidence-based prevention and treatment efforts.

The complete revised estimates are available at:
http://www.unaids.org/en/HIV_data/2007EpiUpdate/default.asp.

Ends

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