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IAS Challenges International Community

IAS Challenges International Community To Meet Universal Access Targets By 2010 And Mdg6

20 June 2008 (Geneva, Switzerland) - The International AIDS Society (IAS) commends governments, civil society and UN agencies for the significant progress on universal access targets reported at the recent UN High Level Meeting on AIDS (10 - 11 June).

By the end of 2007, over 30% of people in need - an estimated three million people - were on antiretroviral therapy (ART) in low and middle-income countries, a 42% increase over the end of 2006. Encouraging progress was also reported in preventing mother to child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, with 34% of HIV-positive pregnant women receiving ARVs for PMTCT at the end of 2007compared to 14% only two years before. Although these trends are encouraging, they must be balanced against the reality that more than two-thirds of people in need of ART are not on treatment, and in 2007 the number of new HIV infections was 2.5 times higher than the increase in the number of people on ART.

IAS President, Dr. Pedro Cahn warned that, while progress over the last few years has been substantial, the international community must redouble its efforts in order to achieve universal access to prevention, care and treatment by 2010 and Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 6 on halting and beginning to reverse the AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis epidemics by 2015.

"While we are encouraged by the high level of government representation at the recent UN meeting on AIDS - and the fact that 147 Member States submitted progress reports on their 2001 and 2006 commitments - most countries are far off target to meet universal access goals by 2010 or MDG 6 by 2015. Their commitment has yet to fully translate into action on the frontlines of this epidemic".

The Report from the Secretary-General, released in advance of the meeting, highlighted the need to address the gender issues which make women and girls both socially and biologically vulnerable to HIV in heterosexual transmission, which accounts for the majority of infections, and to ensure that they have access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services. The need to improve services for most at risk populations, which have been poorly served by existing HIV programmes, was also a major theme at the recent meeting.

"We must intensify our efforts to deliver evidence-based interventions to injecting drug users, men who have sex with men, and sex workers if we hope to achieve universal access", said Dr. Cahn. "Sixty-three percent of countries report having policies that impede access to HIV services for these populations, despite their commitment to removing such barriers. This situation is unconscionable given our knowledge base after more than 25 years of experience with this epidemic."

Cahn urged leaders to scale up prevention efforts, and to include ART as part of a comprehensive approach to HIV prevention. "We know that viral suppression through the use of ART reduces the risk of transmission; it is another forceful argument for governments to accelerate the pace of treatment scale-up".

Cahn praised the leadership of Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and other government officials for their commitment to removing HIV-related travel restrictions. Over 70 countries impose HIV related travel restrictions on visitors or potential immigrants and 13 countries, including the United States, ban entry to all HIV-positive people seeking to entry the country, even for short-term visits.

"HIV-related travel restrictions are discriminatory, ineffective at reducing HIV transmission, and contribute to HIV-related stigma. The IAS is very pleased by the call for action on this issue by the Secretary General, and the commitment of other leaders to abolish this egregious example of HIV-related discrimination".

The IAS released a policy paper in 2007 calling for governments to eliminate all travel barriers for people living with HIV, noting the lack of any evidence that such restrictions have any impact on HIV transmission or significantly increase the health care burden for those countries without such restrictions. IAS provides secretariat support for the Global Task Team on HIV-Related Travel Restrictions, convened by UNAIDS, and is working with a number of partners to address this issue.

The IAS is the world's leading independent association of HIV professionals, with more than 10,000 members from 172 countries. The IAS is a non-profit organization founded in 1988, and acts as an independent voice in the global response to AIDS on behalf of its members. The Society is the custodian of the International AIDS Conferences, the paramount gathering of all disciplines in HIV/AIDS, held every two years, and organizes the IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention.


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