More has been
achieved in the past two years in the fight against AIDS than in the preceding
The latest report
on the global AIDS epidemic, released at the United Nations, found big
improvements in preventing new HIV infections and a decline in AIDS-related
deaths, in the past year. But experts said that more funding was essential
to keep up the fight against the epidemic.
"There have been
significant gains in preventing new HIV infections in a number of heavily
affected countries," the report said. However, the decline in the
rate of new infections in several countries has been diminished by an
increase in other countries.
The data showed that
an estimated 33 million people were living with AIDS in 2007. There were
2.7 million new HIV infections and two million AIDS related deaths last
The study is done
by UNAIDS, the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, every two years.
“We have achieved more in the fight against AIDS in the last two
years than the preceding twenty years,” said Peter Piot, head of
the programme, at a press conference.
“We have seen
a substantial increase in the HIV prevention efforts and treatment and
these are producing results in a number of heavily affected countries,”
Young people have
exhibited several positive developments like the increased use of condoms,
according to the report. Further, the youth in seven of the most affected
countries including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Uganda
and Zambia are waiting longer to have sexual intercourse. For instance,
the percentage of young people having sex before the age of 15 has gone
down from 35 percent to 14 percent in Cameroon.
Thoraya Ahmed Obaid,
head of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) pointed out that young
people remained the most vulnerable to HIV infections. “Forty five
percent of the all the new adult infections occurred last year in young
people aged 15 to 24,” she said. “That is the target group
and prevention there is quite important.”
However, the latest
statistics collected from about 64 countries indicated that fewer than
40 percent of young people had basic information about HIV, which makes
them vulnerable to the epidemic.
Obaid told the press
that it was important to make sure that “sex education is integrated
in the formal and informal education system” and should be “grounded
on real social-cultural context to be realistic.”
UNAIDS also had good
news for children. The percentage of HIV positive pregnant women receiving
antiretroviral drugs to prevent mother-to-child transmission rose from
nine percent in 2004 to 33 percent in 2007. Countries such as Botswana,
Namibia, Swaziland and South Africa experienced increases in coverage
of prevention of mother-to-child transmission services. “I think
that is an achievement that is remarkable,” said Piot.
During this period
the number of new infections among children fell from 410,000 to 370,000.
However, the total number of children living with HIV increased from 1.6
million in 2001 to two million in 2007. Almost 90 percent of these children
live in sub- Saharan Africa.
On the treatment front,
the report pointed out that nearly three million people were receiving
antiretroviral treatment in the developing world in 2007. This represents
31 percent of estimated global needs and 45 percent improvement over 2006.
Treatment of HIV patients reached new records in some countries. Namibia
scaled up treatment from one percent in 2003 to 88 percent in 2007. Rwanda
went from three percent to 71 percent in the same period. Botswana delivered
HIV treatment to more than 90 percent of people in need.
However, the advances
made in treatment numbers continue to fall behind the number of new HIV
infections -for every two people put on antiretroviral drugs, another
five become newly infected.
“The gap between
those who are in need of treatment and those who have access to treatment
is widening,” Piot said. “Ultimately we’ll have to intensify
our interventions, our prevention efforts to stop this epidemic.”
For people most at
risk—sex workers, men who have sex with men and people who inject
drugs—there has been a tripling of HIV prevention efforts since
The report said that
discrimination continued to be an obstacle to access most-at-risk people.
“Countries with less discrimination has made better progress towards
prevention,” stressed Obaid.
While addressing the
opening at the 17th International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, this
week, the U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, called on politicians all
over the world to speak out against discrimination.
He asked, “schools
to teach respect, religious leaders to preach tolerance, and for media
to confirm prejudice in all its forms.”
In Asia an estimated
5 million people had HIV last year and 380,000 people died from the AIDS
related illness. The survey showed that South East Asia saw the highest
levels of HIV.
Injecting drug use
was highlighted as the major risk factor in several Asian countries. The
report estimated that in China almost half the people living with HIV
were infected through use of contaminated injecting equipment in 2006.
Data indicated that India, Pakistan and Vietnam were on the same trajectory.
In India, the report
found high HIV prevalence among sex workers and “possibly rising
prevalence among people who inject drugs and men who have sex with men.”
It pointed out that sex between men was a “significant yet under-researched
aspect of India’s HIV epidemic.”
Afghanistan is the
latest prey of HIV in Asia, according to the survey. It found that in
Kabul, the three percent of the people who injected drugs was HIV positive.
They also shared needles and syringes.
Kemal Dervis, administrator
of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) stressed that the AIDS
epidemic continued to take a toll on development particularly in the low
and middle-income nations.
“In the high
prevalence country we lose half to one and half percentage points of economic
growth due to HIV-AIDS,” he said. “That is huge.”
Obaid emphasised that
the fight against AIDS was entering a new phase and that more funding
was needed to meet the “whole target of universal access for prevention,
treatment, care and support.”
The experts stressed
that the present level of funding was insufficient to sustain long-term
efforts. Last year, the 10 billion dollars spent on AIDS programs in developing
countries, came from a combination of domestic funding, private and donor
Piot warned that while
developing countries could draw from their domestic budget, the poorest
regions, Africa in particular, would continue to require external support.
The UNAIDS chief welcomed
the “Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership
against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Reauthorisation Act,”
signed into law by President George Bush in July, which gives 48 billion
in a response against fighting the epidemic.
Ban reiterated this
point in Mexico City. “In the most affected countries, donors will
have to provide the majority of the funding,” he said.
The UN chief also
called for long term and sustained financing. “As more people go
on treatment and live longer, budgets will have to increase considerably
over the next few decades,” he said.