U.N. General Assembly High-Level Meeting To Review Progress Made Against HIV/AIDS Pandemic
Representatives from about 127 countries, including more than 30 ministers from HIV/AIDS programs worldwide, on Thursday are scheduled to gather at the 2005 U.N. General Assembly High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS in New York City to review the progress made against the pandemic, the AP/Yahoo! News reports (Lederer, AP/Yahoo! News, 6/2). The meeting is being held to assess the fight against the disease since targets were set at the 2001 U.N. General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS (Leopold, Reuters, 6/2). The targets include reducing HIV prevalence rates among people ages 15 to 24 by at least 25% by the end of 2005, providing young people with prevention services, reducing by 20% the number of infants who are born HIV-positive and expanding treatment.
In advance of the meeting, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan released a report on the progress made against the pandemic, the AP/Yahoo! News reports (AP/Yahoo! News, 6/2). "AIDS unleashes a chain of events that threatens to cause entire societies to unravel," Annan said in the report, adding, "In short, AIDS is an exceptional problem which demands an exceptional response." The report found that progress against the pandemic has been made in Cambodia, Thailand, the Bahamas, several African countries and Brazil, which has the "most successful" HIV/AIDS program in the developing world (Reuters, 6/2). However, the report still "paints a grim picture" of the pandemic, with 4.9 million new HIV infections and 3.1 million AIDS-related deaths in 2004, more than in any previous year, according to the AP/Yahoo! News. Access to prevention and treatment programs also remains low, according to the report. At the end of 2004, 12% of the six million people worldwide in need of treatment had access to it and only 20% had access to prevention services, the report says. In 2003, prevention services were available to 16% of commercial sex workers, 11% of men who have sex with men, 20% of homeless children and less than 5% of the world's 13 million injection drug users, according to the report.
At a news conference held on Wednesday in advance of the meeting, UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said that funding for HIV/AIDS has increased fourfold since 2001 to $8 billion and the number of people receiving HIV/AIDS education, counseling and testing has doubled. The number of women accessing programs to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission also has increased by 70%, according to Piot. "But there's still a long way to go," particularly in securing the money and political will needed to meet the UNGASS and U.N. Millennium Development Goals targets, the AP/Yahoo! News reports. Piot added that the current challenge is to expand prevention and treatment programs to rural areas and to all developing countries. He also said that the issues discussed at Thursday's meeting likely will carry over to the U.N. General Assembly meeting in September, where he expects leaders from wealthy nations to make financial commitments addressing the additional $14 billion to $16 billion needed to fight the pandemic annually (AP/Yahoo! News, 6/2). United Nations Population Fund Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid during the news conference said that women worldwide need more information about prevention methods, including the female condom. "The trend is that more young women are being infected than young men," she said, adding, "If they are married, they can't abstain. They are faithful, but the husband is not faithful" (Reuters, 6/2). The United Nations also released a report on Wednesday written by young researchers from 12 South Asian, African and Caribbean countries arguing for increased peer education initiatives worldwide (Heinlein, VOA News, 6/2). According to Piot, Thursday's meeting also will address research into HIV/AIDS vaccines and microbicides, which he said likely will be available within the next four to five years (AP/Yahoo! News, 6/2).
A kaisernetwork.org webcast of the 2001 special session is available online.