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New AIDS cases fall by one fifth in a decade: UN

Access to AIDS treatment cutting deaths in Africa: UN
Johannesburg (AFP) Nov 23, 2010 - Expanded access to AIDS treatment in sub-Saharan Africa has dramatically cut deaths from the disease, but the region remains the worst affected in the world, a UN report said Tuesday. Sub-Saharan Africa saw an estimated 320,000 fewer people die of HIV-related causes in 2009 than in 2004, when the region began to dramatically scale up access to anti-AIDS drugs, according to the United Nations AIDS agency's 2010 global report on the epidemic. "The efforts of anti-retroviral therapy are really evident, especially in our region of the world, sub-Saharan Africa, where because of access we have seen 20 percent fewer deaths related to HIV than in 2004," Sheila Tlou, UNAIDS regional director for sub-Saharan Africa, told journalists. But, she said, "Sub-Saharan Africa still bears the brunt of the epidemic, in that 68 percent of the people living with HIV are in our region."

Eastern and southern Africa remain the epicenter of the epidemic and have a disproportionate number of HIV infections, UNAIDS found. "Eastern and southern Africa is only 5.4 percent of the global population, but more than 50 percent of people living with HIV are here," said Tlou. Across sub-Saharan Africa, 22.5 million people are living with HIV, more than any other region in the world, and 68 percent of the global total of 33.3 million people, UNAIDS found. The region's HIV-positive population has risen by 2.2 million since 2001, showing that Africa still faces a difficult battle to control AIDS. But the report found signs of success in the continent's fight against the disease. In 2009, there were 1.8 million new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa, down from 2.2 million in 2001 -- a drop of more than 18 percent.

And of the 33 countries worldwide that saw new HIV infections fall by more than 25 percent between 2001 and 2009, 22 are in sub-Saharan Africa. "The largest epidemics in sub-Saharan Africa -- Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe -- have either stabilized or are showing signs of decline," UNAIDS said. "Between 2000 and 2008, the rate of new HIV infections among young people declined by more than 25 percent in 15 most-affected countries in sub-Saharan Africa." UNAIDS said South Africa continues to have the largest AIDS epidemic in the world, with 5.6 million HIV-positive people. Neighbouring Swaziland has the highest adult infection rate, 25.9 percent. Across sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls are disproportionately affected by HIV, the agency said -- 76 percent of all HIV-positive women in the world live in the region.
by Staff Writers
Geneva (AFP) Nov 23, 2010
The number of new cases of HIV/AIDS has dropped by about one-fifth over the past decade but millions of people are still missing out on major progress in prevention and treatment, the UN said Tuesday.

In 2009, 2.6 million people contracted the HIV virus that causes AIDS, down 19 percent from the 3.1 million recorded in 2001, said UNAIDS, the UN agency spearheading the international campaign against the disease.

"Fifty-six nations around the world have stabilised or significantly reduced infections," UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe told journalists.

But about half of the 60 million people who caught HIV/AIDS since the start of the pandemic 30 years ago have died, according to the agency.

Sidibe urged caution over the growing impact of prevention measures and medical treatment highlighted in the 2010 global report on the AIDS epidemic and warned about a slowdown in finance.

"We have halted and begun to reverse the epidemic. Fewer people are becoming infected with HIV and fewer people are dying from AIDS," he said.

"However we are not yet in a position to say 'mission accomplished'," he added in the report.

About 33.3 million people worldwide were living with the HIV virus that causes AIDS at the end of last year -- about 100,000 less than in 2008.

The UNAIDS chief heralded a "prevention revolution" in the pipeline, including a gel that could help women protect themselves, and a breakthrough on drugs treatment.

The report showed that treatment has made huge inroads in the past five years.

Some 5.2 million people in poor countries had access to costly lifesaving anti-retroviral medicine in poor countries last year, compared to 700,000 in 2004.

However, overall "demand is outstripping supply," Sidibe warned, while investment against HIV/AIDS stopped growing for the first time last year.

"If we stop financing, the five million people who are under treatment will start to die," he warned.

An estimated 10 million people who need anti-retrovirals do not have them, while "stigma, discrimination, and bad laws continue to place roadblocks for people living with HIV and people on the margins" of society, he added.

The report found that epidemics in sub-Saharan Africa, the worst hit continent, were declining or stable.

AIDS-related deaths there fell by 20 percent over the past five years, while the number of people living with the HIV declined from an estimated 2.2 million to 1.8 million.

In Asia, HIV stabilised at a caseload of about 4.9 million, with "significant" progress on tackling mother-to-child transmission, UNAIDS said.

In India, Nepal and Thailand the rate of new infections fell by more than a quarter.

However, the annual death toll has grown by about 50,000 to 300,000 in Asia over a decade. The pattern of disease within highly populated countries such as China and Indonesia can vary signifcantly.

The biggest inroads were found in North America and west and central Europe, with a 30 percent decline in the caseload over a decade.

But new infections rose there slightly last year and UNAIDS signalled a resurgence of the epidemic among male homosexuals due to unprotected sex.

In eastern Europe and central Asia, the number of people with the virus has almost tripled over the past decade to reach about 1.4 million, while deaths grew fourfold.

Russia and Ukraine account for nearly 90 percent of new infections in the region.

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