'New HIV infections down 17%, most progress in sub-Saharan Africa'

Switzerland (PANA)
-- New data in the 2009 AIDS epidemic update have show n that new HIV infections have been reduced by 17% over the past eight years, ac c ording to a joint report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
It said since 2001, when the UN Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS was signed , the number of new infections in sub-Saharan Africa is approximately 15% lower, which is about 400,000 fewer infections in 2008.
In East Asia, the statement said, HIV incidence has declined by nearly 25% and i n South and South East Asia by 10% in the same time period.
In Eastern Europe, a f ter a dramatic increase in new infections among injecting drug users, the epidem i c has leveled off considerably.
However, in some countries there are signs that HIV incidence is rising again, i t said, while highlighting that beyond the peak and natural course of the epidem i c - HIV prevention programmes are making a difference.
â?The good news is that we have evidence that the declines we are seeing are du e, at least in part, to HIV prevention,â? said Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS.
â?However, the findings also 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.
â? In this first double issue, the UNAIDS Outlook report further explores how â?mo des of transmissionâ? studies are changing the approach of HIV prevention effort s.
The new magazine-style report looks at new ideas and ways to use the data collec ted in the companion epidemiological report.
Data from the AIDS Epidemic Update also show that at 33.
4 million, [31.
1 million â"35.
8 million] there are more people living with HIV than ever before as people are living longer due to the beneficial effects of antiretroviral therapy and popula tion growth.
However the number of AIDS-related deaths has declined by over 10% over the past five years, as more people gained to access to the life saving treatment.
UNAIDS and WHO estimate that since the availability of effective treatment in 19 96, some 2.
9 million lives have been saved.
Dr Margaret Chan, Director- General of WHO said: "International and national inv estment in HIV treatment scale-up has yielded concrete and measurable results.
W e cannot let this momentum wane.
Now is the time to redouble our efforts, and save many more lives.
" Antiretroviral therapy has also made a significant impact in preventing new infe ctions in children as more HIV-positive mothers gain access to treatment prevent i ng them from transmitting the virus to their children.
Around 200 000 new infections amo ng children have been prevented since 2001.
In Botswana, where treatment coverage is 80%, AIDS-related deaths have fallen by over 50% over the past five years and the number of children newly orphaned is a lso coming down as parents are living longer.
One of the significant findings of the report is that the impact of the AIDS res ponse is high where HIV prevention and treatment programmes have been integrated with other health and social welfare services.
The double report also shows that the face of the epidemic is changing and that prevention efforts are not keeping pace with this shift.
For example the epidemi c in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, once characterized by injecting drug use, is now spread ing to the sexual partners of people who inject drugs.
Similarly in parts of Asi a an epidemic once characterized by transmission through sex work and injecting drug use is no w increasingly affecting heterosexual couples.

24 november 2009 11:53:00

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