More than 50% drop in new HIV infections: Report

Wednesday, November 21, 2012
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé addressing press conference in Geneva
[PHOTO: UNifeed] 
Geneva: A reduction of more than 50 per cent in the rate of new HIV infections has been achieved across 25 low- and middle-income countries – more than half in Africa, the region most affected by HIV – according to a new United Nations report, which shows that unprecedented acceleration in the AIDS response is producing results.

The report comes days before World AIDS Day, which falls on 1 December, and as the international community steps up efforts to achieve one of the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which have a 2015 deadline for achieving them.

At the launch of the UNAIDS 2012 World AIDS Day Report, Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director announced that, "we are already achieving the millennium development goal of halting and reversing the AIDs epidemic. New HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths are declining".

According to the results in some of the countries which have the highest HIV prevalence in the world, rates of new HIV infections have been cut dramatically since 2001 – by 73 per cent in Malawi, 71 per cent in Botswana, 68 per cent in Namibia, 58 per cent in Zambia, 50 per cent in Zimbabwe and 41 per cent in South Africa and Swaziland.

Sidibe noted that while in the past there were only three countries in the world that served as a model, "today 25 countries have reduced new infections by more than 50 percent".

While noting that the pace of progress was quickening, Sidibe said that "what used to take a decade is now being achieved in 24 months".

In particular, Sidibé cited South Africa as an example of the benefits of a scaled-up response. It increased its scale-up of HIV treatment by 75 per cent over the last two years – ensuring 1.7 million people had access to life-saving treatment – and new HIV infections have fallen by more than 50,000 in just two years. During this period, South Africa also increased its domestic investments on AIDS to $1.6 billion, the highest by any low- and middle-income country.

Antiretroviral therapy has also emerged as a powerful force for saving lives, the report notes.

Sidibe said that globally there had been a "60 percent increase in the numbers of people on treatment in the last two years alone".

In the area of investments in the global AIDS response, the report shows that countries are increasing their investments despite a difficult economic climate. The global gap in resources needed annually by 2015 now stands at 30 per cent. In 2011, $16.8 billion was available and the need for 2015 is between $22-24 billion.

Sidibé, said that  as the world continued to emerge from a challenging economic crisis the resource need gap in the AIDS response has been narrowed and he also said that 81 countries had increased their domestic investment in HIV/AIDS by more than 50 percent.

In 2011, for the first time ever, domestic investments from low- and middle-income countries surpassed global giving for HIV. However, international assistance, which has been stable in the past few years, remains a critical lifeline for many countries, according to the report. In 26 of 33 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, donor support accounts for more than half of HIV investments.

The report notes that an estimated 6.8 million people are eligible for treatment and do not have access. UNAIDS also estimates that an additional four million discordant couples – where one partner is living with HIV – would benefit from HIV treatment to protect their partners from HIV infection.

Despite the encouraging progress in stopping new HIV infections, the total number of new HIV infections remains high – 2.5 million in 2011. The report outlines that to reduce new HIV infections globally, combination HIV prevention services need to be brought to scale. -UNifeed
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