Global HIV infections down by 17 percent

November 24th, 2009 - 8:09 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 24 (IANS) New HIV infections in South Asia, including India, have reduced by at least 10 percent, while globally, it has come down by 17 percent in the last eight years, the UNAIDS said in a new report Tuesday.
“Since 2001, when the United Nations Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS was signed, the number of new infections in sub-Saharan Africa is approximately 15 percent lower, which is about 400,000 fewer infections in 2008,” the UN agency said.

The UN body said that “…in the 2009 AIDS epidemic update, new HIV infections have been reduced by 17 percent over the past eight years”.

“In East Asia, new HIV infections declined by nearly 25 percent and in South and South East Asia by 10 percent in the same time period. In Eastern Europe, after a dramatic increase in new infections among injecting drug users, the epidemic has levelled off considerably,” the health monitoring body said.

The worldwide release of the report by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO), highlights that beyond the peak and natural course of the epidemic - HIV prevention programmes are making a difference.

“The good news is that we have evidence that the declines we are seeing are due, at least in part, to HIV prevention,” said Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS.

“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.”

An estimated 33.4 million people are living with HIV worldwide, of which nearly 2.5 million are Indians. While 2.7 million people were newly infected in 2008, around two million people died of AIDS related illness in 2008.

The number of AIDS-related deaths has declined by over 10 percent over the past five years as more people gained access to the life-saving treatment. UNAIDS and WHO estimate that since the availability of effective treatment in 1996, some 2.9 million lives have been saved.

“International and national investment in HIV treatment scale-up have yielded concrete and measurable results,” said Margaret Chan, director general of WHO.

“We 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 infections in children as more HIV positive mothers gain access to treatment preventing them from transmitting the virus to their children. Around 200,000 new infections among children have been prevented since 2001, the report said.

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