Global AIDS deaths fall by 600,000 in six years

Geneva, Switzerland (PANA) - Some 1.7 million people died of AIDS in 2011, 600,000 less than the figure for 2005, according to a statement by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to mark the World AIDS Day 2012, to be observed 1 Dec.

Also, 2.5 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2011,  which is 700,000 fewer new infections worldwide than ten years ago, the global health body said in a statement Thursday.

WHO said much of the progress is attributed to the life-saving medications, called antiretrovirals, to treat those infected with HIV.  

These medicines reduce the amount of virus in the blood, which increases the chance they will stay healthy and decreases the risk they can pass the virus to someone else.

In 2011, at the UN General Assembly, governments agreed to set the goal of getting 15 million HIV-infected people worldwide on the life-saving antiretroviral medicines by 2015. The latest global statistics suggest that, provided countries are able to sustain current efforts, this target is within reach.

“Many countries are facing economic difficulties, yet most are managing to continue  expansion of access to antiretroviral medicines,” said Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, Director of the WHO's HIV Department. “The 2015 target looks more achievable now than ever before.”

Currently, 8 million people in low- and middle-income countries are accessing the treatment they need, up from only 0.4 million in 2003.

“The challenge now is to ensure that global progress is mirrored at all levels and in all places so that people, whoever they are and wherever they live, can obtain antiretroviral therapy when they need it,” adds Dr Hirnschall.

In all regions of the world, some groups of people are still not able to access HIV prevention and treatment.  Children, for example, are lagging badly behind: only 28% of children who need antiretrovirals can obtain them.

WHO said there are many reasons for this, including geographical factors that make it more difficult to deliver services; stigma, discrimination and legal issues that are often significant barriers to accessing effective care; and the fact that adolescent girls, sex workers, men who have sex with men and people who use drugs often remain vulnerable and marginalised.

Also, migrants frequently have only limited access to health services.  As a result, they often struggle to obtain the health services they need, including the provision of antiretroviral therapy.

WHO said one of its priorities is to help countries move closer to universal health coverage.

To achieve this, the Organisation said it works with partners to combat stigma and discrimination and supports countries in improving service delivery in all geographic areas, for example by increasing access to medicines and diagnostics, and through mechanisms to encourage health workers to work in remote areas.

It also supports the establishment and maintenance of financing mechanisms that ensure that no one is thrust into poverty because they have to pay for services out of their own pockets.

The theme of the World AIDS Day 2012 is ''Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections. Zero deaths from AIDS-related illness. Zero discrimination''.
-0- PANA SEG 29Nov2012

29 november 2012 09:48:09

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