Up to 95% of HIV-Positive People are Unaware of Their Status, Piot SaysUNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said yesterday that up to 95% of HIV-positive people are not aware of their status, "making investment in preventing the virus from spreading crucial," Agence France-Presse reports. Piot said at a news briefing that the ignorance is due to a lack of testing facilities, stigma and "denial." Piot added, "That's why it is so important that one of the priority investments is to develop, on a large scale, testing and counselling services, which certainly do not exist at the moment." Piot also said yesterday that he believed the global AIDS fund would take approximately five years "to get up and running." He also noted that funding should be divided between prevention and care efforts "in a balanced approach," adding, "Not everyone (who) is HIV-positive needs treatment right now. ... Because of concerns of resistance development to these drugs and also the side effects, the recommendation today is to start later" (Agence France-Presse, 5/31).
Piot Reflects on 20 Years
The UNAIDS coordinating board, which is meeting in Geneva through Friday, is devising a strategy for the 29 U.N. agencies that have "joined forces" to fight the epidemic. Piot said at the meeting that when he first read a June 5, 1981, U.S. government bulletin on what later came to be known as AIDS, "I never imagined I was looking at the first sign of an epidemic that in just 20 years would have infected 60 million people, killed 22 million and achieved the status of the most devastating epidemic in human history." Piot said that several regions have shown "a clear failure" in prevention efforts and was hesitant to predict the future scope of AIDS, saying that "much depends on China and India, where a 1% infection rate would equal the entire population of some African countries." However, Piot said he "saw room for hope," adding, "Where we will be in the next 20 years depends entirely on how we respond to the epidemic today. If 20 years ago, we had done what we had to do, we wouldn't be in the situation we are now" (Nullis, Associated Press, 5/31). To view the provisional agenda and meeting documents for the UNAIDS coordinating board, click here. UNAIDS also has posted a graphic and text timeline of the last 20 years of AIDS. To view the graph, click here, and to view the timeline, click here.