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Record Numbers are Living With AIDS

UN Reports Promising Trend In HIV Infection Rates, Record Numbers Living With Aids

New York, Nov 24 2009 10:10AM The trend in new HIV infections around the world has slowed notably over the past eight years as more people than ever before are able to live with the disease, according to a United Nations report released today.

Giving partial credit to a rise in the number of people benefiting from HIV prevention programmes and receiving antiretroviral treatments, the 2009 AIDS Epidemic Update noted that new infections have been slashed by 17 per cent globally and that some 33.4 million people are living with HIV as AIDS-related deaths dropped by 10 per cent in the last five years.

The Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization (WHO) report said that in sub-Saharan Africa 15 per cent, around 400,000, fewer people contracted the deadly disease in 2008.

“The good news is that we have evidence that the declines we are seeing are due, at least in part, to HIV prevention,” said Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé.

“However, the findings also show that prevention programming is often off the mark and that if we do a better job of getting resources and programmes to where they will make most impact, quicker progress can be made and more lives saved,” added Mr. Sidibé.

UNAIDS and WHO estimate that since the availability of effective treatments in 1996 and some 2.9 million lives have been saved.

“International and national investment in HIV treatment scale-up has yielded concrete and measurable results,” said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.

“We cannot let this momentum wane,” added Dr. Chan. “Now is the time to redouble our efforts, and save many more lives.”

The joint report said that antiretroviral therapy has also made a large difference for children as more HIV-positive mothers gain access to treatment, preventing around 200,000 new infections among children since 2001.

In Botswana, where treatment coverage is 80 per cent, AIDS-related deaths have fallen by over 50 per cent over the past five years and the number of children newly orphaned is also coming down as parents are living longer.

Another of the reports findings points to the high impact on AIDS where HIV prevention and treatment programmes have been integrated with other health and social welfare services.

“AIDS isolation must end,” said Mr. Sidibé. “Half of all maternal deaths in Botswana and South Africa are due to HIV. This tells us that we must work for a unified health approach bringing maternal and child health and HIV programmes as well as tuberculosis programmes together to work to achieve their common goal.”

The report also warns that prevention programmes must keep pace with shifts in the epidemic, such the spread of the disease in Eastern Europe and Central Asia to the sexual partners of people who inject drugs and not just the users. Similarly in parts of Asia an epidemic once characterized by transmission through sex work and injecting drug use is now increasingly affecting heterosexual couples.

ENDS

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