UN Reports Progress In Global Fight Against HIV/AIDS

The United Nations on Wednesday reported accelerated progress in combating HIV/AIDS in much of the world, noting that there has been significant reduction in new infections and deaths. Nevertheless, the world body cautioned that some regions and countries are falling behind in the global battle.

According to the Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), new HIV/AIDS infections globally were estimated at 2.3 million in 2012, marking a 33 percent reduction since 2001. Also, AIDS-related deaths dropped by 30 percent to 1.6 million from the peak in 2005. Besides, new infections among children dropped to 260,000, a 52 percent reduction since 2001

The UNAIDS said the reductions were caused by the expanding access to antiretroviral treatment. It noted that some 9.7 million people in low and middle-income countries are now accessing antiretroviral therapy, an increase of nearly 20 percent in just one year.

But new HIV infections have been on the rise in Eastern Europe and Central Asia - up by 13 percent since 2006 - and have doubled in the Middle East and North Africa since 2001. In these regions, key populations, including men who have sex with men, people who use drugs, transgender people and sex workers are often blocked from accessing life-saving services.

"Every person counts. If we are going to keep our pledge of leaving no one behind, we have to make sure HIV services reaches everyone in need," UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said.

The agency noted that funding for HIV prevention services for gay men is especially limited in East Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and across sub-Saharan Africa. Investments also lag in several countries where HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs is high.

According to UNAIDS, ten countries in which HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs exceeds 10 percent allocate less than 5 percent of HIV spending to harm-reduction programs. Despite sex workers' disproportionate risk of acquiring HIV, prevention programs for them account for a meager share of HIV prevention funding globally.

"We have seen tremendous political commitment and results to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV, but we are failing the children who become infected. We urgently need better diagnostic tools and child-friendly medicines irrespective of the market size," Sidibe said.

Notably, the number of children receiving antiretroviral therapy in 2012 increased by 14 percent compared to 2011. But the pace of scale-up was substantially slower than the 21 percent increase for adults.

UNAIDS said donor funding for HIV has remained around the same as 2008 levels, but noted that domestic spending on HIV grew to about 53 percent of global HIV resources in 2012.

The total available funding for HIV in 2012 was estimated at $18.9 billion, which is well short of the $22-24 billion estimated to be needed annually by 2015, the agency added.

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