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EPIDEMICS
34 million living with HIV after treatment 'gamechanger': UN
by Staff Writers
Geneva (AFP) Nov 21, 2011

New HIV infections plunging in Asia: UN
Geneva (AFP) Nov 21, 2011 - New HIV infections are falling in Asia, with India, the country with the biggest population of infected people in the region, reporting a 56 percent plunge from the epidemic's peak, the United Nations said Monday.

"In South and South-east Asia, the estimated 270,000 new HIV infections in 2010 was 40 percent less than at the epidemic's peak in 1996," said UNAIDS, the agency charged with an international campaign against the disease.

"In India, the country with the largest number of people living with HIV in the region, new HIV infections fell by 56 percent," it added.

However in East Asia, the number of new cases rose from 74,000 in 2001 to 88,000 in 2010.

Overall HIV prevalence is "substantially lower" in Asia than in other parts of the world.

In East Asia, it is at 0.1 percent -- the lowest rate in the world, while in South and South-east Asia, prevalence rate was at 0.3 percent, half of that in North America.

However, due to the sheer size of its population, the absolute number of HIV-infected people in Asia is the world's second largest.

In East Asia, they number 790,000 while in South and South-east Asia, they reached 4.0 million in 2010.

UNAIDS noted that prevalence is mostly higher among key populations at higher risk of infection, such as sex workers, drug users and homosexuals.

However, "over time, the virus is spreading to other populations," it noted.

Trends of infections were also very varied in the region. In several Asian countries, national epidemics were concentrated in relatively few provinces.

In China, for instance, five provinces account for 53 percent of infected people in the sprawling country.

In Indonesia, a disproportionately large part of its careload is found in its Papua and west Papua provinces.


A significant expansion in access to treatment helped slash the number of AIDS-related deaths in 2010, bringing the number of people living with HIV to a record 34 million, the United Nations said Monday.

"We are on the verge of a significant breakthrough in the AIDS response," said Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS. "New HIV infections continue to fall and more people than ever are starting treatment," he noted.

Speaking to journalists in Berlin for the presentation of the report, Sidibe hailed what he called a "game-changing year."

"For the first time we are able to demonstrate that if you put people early on treatment you can reduce the number of new infections," he said.

About half of those eligible for treatment are now receiving it, with the most dramatic improvement in access seen in sub-Saharan Africa, which recorded a 20-percent jump in people undergoing treatment between 2009 and 2010.

As a result of better access to healthcare, the number of AIDS-related deaths was also falling, said UNAIDS, the UN agency spearheading the international campaign against the disease.

In 2010, 1.8 million deaths were linked to AIDS, down from a peak of 2.2 million last seen in 2006.

"An estimated 700,000 AIDS-related deaths were estimated to have been averted in 2010 alone," added the UN agency.

Not only is treatment helping to prevent new AIDS-related deaths but it is also contributing to a drop in new HIV infections.

Patients undergoing care were less likely to infect others, as prevention programmes coupled with treatments were proving effective.

Modelling data suggests that "the number of new HIV infections is 30 to 50 percent lower now than it would have been in the absence of universal access to treatment for eligible people living with HIV."

In Namibia for instance, where treatment access reached an all-time high of 90 percent and condom use rose to 75 percent among men, the combined impact contributed to a 60 percent drop in new infections by 2010, noted UNAIDS.

"I want to say this report is clearly showing that even in those difficult period (three years of financial crisis) we are still having a result: we have more and more countries which are reducing the number of new infections," said Sidibe.

The UN agency added that the full preventive impact of treatment was likely to be seen in the next five years, as more countries reach high levels of treatment coverage.

"The massive increases in the numbers of people receiving treatment in South Africa between 2009 and 2010, for example, are likely to be reflected in substantially fewer new infections in the near future," it said.

UNAIDS assessed that even if the AIDS epidemic is not over, "the end may be in sight if countries invest smartly."

"In the next five years, smart investments can propel the AIDS response towards achieving the vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths," it said.

However, the turning point is coming at a time when industrialised nations' public budgets are being squeezed and translating to less international funding for the AIDS response.

Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres urged governments to keep up their funding.

"Never, in more than a decade of treating people living with HIV/AIDS, have we been at such a promising moment to really turn this epidemic around," said Tido von Schoen-Angerer, who heads MSF's access campaign.

"Governments in some of the hardest hit countries want to act on the science, seize this moment and reverse the AIDS epidemic. But this means nothing if there's no money to make it happen."

Related Links
Epidemics on Earth - Bird Flu, HIV/AIDS, Ebola




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Incumbent WHO chief only candidate for agency's top post
Geneva (AFP) Nov 21, 2011 - The World Health Organisation said Monday that it has received just one application for the UN health agency's top post -- from current director-general Margaret Chan.

"Only one candidate has been proposed," said the WHO. "The candidate is Dr Margaret Chan, the current director-general, whose name has been submitted by China."

An executive board meeting in Geneva between January 16 and 23 will decide whether to put the name forward to the World Health Assembly in May, which would make the final decision regarding the appointment.

Chan, a former Hong Kong health chief, was elected director-general of the WHO in November 2006.

During her Hong Kong tenure the city dealt with the world's first outbreak of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus as well as an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

And in 2009, during her time at the helm of the WHO, Chan declared swine flu the world's first flu pandemic in 40 years.

HIV/AIDS in figures
Geneva (AFP) Nov 21, 2011 - Here are the latest global estimates of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, published by the UN agency UNAIDS.

1) TOTAL INFECTIONS AT END 2010:

WORLD: Around 34 million people living with HIV, in a range of 31.6 million to 35.2 million. This marks a rise from 32.9 million a year ago.

BY REGION:

Sub-Saharan Africa: 22.9 million

South and Southeast Asia: 4.0 million

East Asia: 790,000

Latin America: 1.5 million

North America: 1.3 million

Western and Central Europe: 840,000

Eastern Europe and Central Asia: 1.5 million

Caribbean: 200,000

Middle East and North Africa: 470,000

Oceania: 54,000

2) NEW INFECTIONS IN 2010:

WORLD:

2.7 million people became infected in 2010, stable from the previous year, and down 21 percent from the 1997 peak.

BY REGION:

Sub-Saharan Africa: 1.9 million

South and Southeast Asia: 270,000

East Asia: 88,000

Latin America: 100,000

North America: 58,000

Western and Central Europe: 30,000

Eastern Europe and Central Asia: 160,000

Caribbean: 12,000

Middle East and North Africa: 59,000

Oceania: 3,300

3) AIDS DEATHS IN 2010:

WORLD:

Around 1.8 million people died from AIDS-related causes in 2010, down by 100,000 over 2009.

BY REGION:

Sub-Saharan Africa: 1.2 million

South and Southeast Asia: 250,000

East Asia: 56,000

Latin America: 67,000

North America: 20,000

Western and Central Europe: 9,900

Eastern Europe and Central Asia: 90,000

Caribbean: 9,000

Middle East and North Africa: 35,000

Oceania: 1,600

Source: 2011 UNAIDS Epidemic Update



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