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AIDS deaths top 25 million but infections slow

Sub-Saharan Africa leads global HIV infections: UNAIDS
Sub-Saharan Africa still has the world's highest number of HIV cases, accounting for 67 percent of global infections, a United Nations reports said on Tuesday. "An estimated 1.9 million people were newly infected with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa in 2008, bringing to 22.4 million the number of people living with HIV," the UNAIDS agency said in a statement. Women and girls remain the worst affected in the region, accounting for 60 percent of the overall HIV infections. Africa's economic power house, South Africa, remains home to the world's largest population of people living with the virus, with 5.7 million cases recorded in 2007. But the report highlighted an increased use of condom use by South African males during their first sexual encounter, up from 31.3 percent in 2001 to 64.8 percent in 2008. The prevalence of the virus in East African countries appear to be stabilising, with Burundi and Kenya showing a decline in infection rates. The agency has attributed the improvement to increased access to treatment and changes in sexual behaviour. It also noted that by the end of 2008, 44 percent of adults and children had access to treatment, compared with only two percent covered five years ago. But South African's impoverished neighbour, Swaziland, still has one of the most severe levels of infections in the region, with 26 percent of the 1.1 million afflicted by the disease. Swaziland's HIV treatment is not easily available to all people living with the virus. According to the agency, AIDS deaths in the sub-Saharan region have left 14 million orphans.
by Staff Writers
Shanghai (AFP) Nov 24, 2009
AIDS has killed 25 million people worldwide but new infections are slowing sharply, the UN said in an annual report on the crisis Tuesday that mixed hope with a warning against complacency.

Almost 60 million people have been infected by the HIV virus since it was first recorded but prevention programmes are having a significant impact, the UNAIDS agency said in its latest report, released here in Shanghai.

Around two million people died of the disease in 2008, bringing the overall toll to around 25 million since the virus was first detected three decades ago.

Some 2.7 million were newly infected in 2008, it added, bringing the world total to 33.4 million.

Michel Sidibe, UNAIDS executive director, told a Shanghai news conference on the report's launch that the number of new human immunodeficiency (HIV) virus infections has been reduced by 17 percent over the past eight years.

"The good news is that we have evidence that the declines we are seeing are due, at least in part, to HIV prevention," Sidibe said.

Some of the most notable progress has been reported in Africa, the report said.

HIV incidence has fallen by 25 percent since 2001 in East Africa while the figure for sub-Saharan Africa as a whole was around 15 percent -- equating to around 400,000 fewer infections in 2008.

In South and South East Asia, HIV incidence has declined by 10 percent in the same time period, the report said.

Sidibe said treatment products had increased ten-fold in the past five years, leading to an 18 percent decline in mortality since 2001.

But he added better prevention strategies were needed to stop new infections, which stood at 7,400 a day.

"Any time we are putting two people on treatment, five people are being infected," he said.

"The findings (of the report) show that prevention programming is often off the mark and that if we do a better job of getting resources and programmes to where they will make most impact, quicker progress can be made and more lives saved."

The new report showed that more people than ever were now living with the virus as people live longer due to the beneficial effects of antiretroviral therapy.

The number of deaths linked to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) has declined by over 10 percent over the past five years as more people gained access to life saving treatment, said the report.

It estimated that around 2.9 million lives have been saved since 1996 when more effective treatment became available.

"International and national investment in HIV treatment scale-up has yielded concrete and measurable results. We cannot let this momentum wane," said Margaret Chan, head of the UN's World Health Organisation (WHO).

Sidibe pointed to problems in combatting the disease in parts of Africa where gaps in health infrastructure are chronic.

"Half of all maternal deaths in Botswana and South Africa are due to HIV," he said.

"This tells us that we must work for a unified health approach, bringing maternal and child health and HIV programmes as well as tuberculosis programmes together."

And he said the pandemic was also changing face, which challenged health watchdogs to overhaul prevention strategies.

In China, for instance, transmission was from shifting from mainly injection drug use to sexual transmission, accounting for more than 72 percent of new cases last year.

AIDS first came to light in 1981 among a small group of American homosexuals whose immune systems had been mysteriously destroyed.

Evidence swiftly surfaced that it was a disease that crossed gender and sexual barriers, caused by a virus transmitted chiefly through unprotected sex, blood transfusion, shared intravenous drug needles or from a mother to her unborn child.

earlier related report
Global AIDS epidemic: UN snapshot
Here is a snapshot of the global AIDS epidemic, based on a report published Tuesday by UNAIDS:

- TOTAL: Around 33.4 million people, in a range of 31.1 to 35.8 million, are living with HIV in 2008. They include 2.1 million children under 15.

- DEATHS: Around two million people, in a range of 1.7 to 2.4 million, died from AIDS-related causes in 2008. This figure remains unchanged from 2007.

- NEW INFECTIONS: The AIDS virus infected 2.7 million people in 2008. New infections have dropped by 17 percent over the past eight years.

- CHILDREN: Some 430,000 children were born with HIV in 2008.

- AFRICA: Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 67 percent of all people living with HIV worldwide. About 91 percent of new infections among children also occur here. The epidemic has orphaned more than 14 million children in the region.

- HIV PREVENTION: About 45 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women received treatment to prevent the transmission of the virus to their babies, up from 35 percent in 2007.

- HIV TREATMENT: Over four million people in poor countries had access to HIV treatment by the end of 2008, up from three million at the end of 2007. Across the globe, at least 4.7 million received treatment. However, this makes up only 42 percent of the total who needed treatment.

- FUNDING: Some 25 billion dollars will be required for HIV services in 2010.

Source: 2009 AIDS Epidemic Update

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