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HIV/AIDS: UNAIDS World AIDS Day report - the Highlights

JOHANNESBURG, 20 November 2012 (IRIN) - From decreasing HIV infection rates to insufficient condom distribution, UNAIDS’s latest report on the HIV pandemic is a mixed bag.

IRIN/PlusNews brings you the highlights:

New infections

Some 2.5 million people contracted HIV in 2011; rates of new infections have fallen by 20 percent since countries met at the inaugural UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS in 2001.

Leading the race to eliminate new infections are countries such as Botswana, Haiti and Zimbabwe, which have at least halved their rates of new infections in the last decade. Nepal cut new HIV infections by a dramatic 91 percent, and Cambodia reduced them by 88 percent.

On the losing end are countries such as Guinea-Bissau, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, where new infections have risen by at least 25 percent since 2001.

Forty percent fewer children were infected in 2011 than in 2003.

AIDS-related deaths

In 2011, 1.7 million people lost their lives to AIDS-related illnesses. This represents a reduction of about 25 percent from just six years ago. Tuberculosis (TB) remains the leading killer of people living with HIV, who comprise about 15 percent of TB cases globally.

Fewer than half of all TB patients who tested positive for HIV received antiretroviral (ARV) treatment in 2011. ARVs can reduce an HIV-positive person’s risk of developing active TB by 65 percent.

Death rates among people living with HIV have decreased by at least 50 percent in countries like Namibia, Kenya and Zambia. Countries like South Africa, Swaziland and Thailand have charted smaller gains.

Prevention

The world continues to underspend on prevention. The UNAIDS report argues that spending on preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission and medical male circumcision (MMC) needs to triple in order to meet the gap between those targeted and those reached. Only Swaziland and Ethiopia have worked MMC into infant care.

Condom procurement among low- and middle-income countries also remains low when compared to 2015 targets.

More than two decades after HIV was discovered, knowledge about the virus also remains surprisingly low. In the majority of hard-hit countries for which data were available, less than half of young people had correct knowledge about the virus. Young women were particularly likely to not know about the effectiveness of condoms in preventing HIV.

Treatment coverage

More than eight million people living with HIV now have access to ARVs - about 60 percent more than were able to access the life-saving drugs just two years ago. However, 7 million people with the virus still are still unable to obtain to these medicines. Almost three-quarter of all children living with the virus and in need of ARVs do not have them.

Funding

The world fell about 30 percent short in its 2011 HIV investment, making about US$ 17 billion available for the response to the epidemic. UNAIDS estimates the annual price tag for fighting HIV is at least $22 billion.

Promisingly, low- and middle-income countries have more than tripled national spending on HIV since 2005, contributing almost $9 billion last year.

South Africa, for example, increased domestic HIV spending five-fold between 2006 and 2009, while Botswana doubled its spending in roughly the same period. The report notes that half of upper-middle-income countries still allow international donors to foot the bill for at least half of their HIV programming for vulnerable populations.

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Theme (s): HIV/AIDS (PlusNews),

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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