HIV/AIDS Prevention, Treatment Must Not Be Deterred by Increasing Number of HIV Cases, Lack of Vaccine, Editorial Says
"Dark as the future appears, the fight to stem AIDS must go on" because prevention programs avert HIV cases and treating HIV-positive people with antiretroviral drugs saves lives, according to a UNAIDS and World Health Organization report released on Monday, a San Francisco Chronicle editorial says (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/22). The report, titled "AIDS Epidemic Update: December 2005," estimates that the total number of HIV-positive people worldwide has reached its highest level ever, increasing from 39.4 million in 2004 to 40.3 million currently. Nearly five million new HIV cases occurred in 2005, and about 3.1 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses this year, bringing the total number of deaths from the disease to more than 25 million since 1981. Although the report notes that the number of HIV cases increased in every region of the world except the Caribbean last year, some countries that have invested heavily in prevention programs -- including Kenya, Zimbabwe and some Caribbean countries -- have lowered their HIV prevalence rates. In addition, access to HIV treatment has improved over the last two years, with more than one million people in middle- and low-income countries receiving antiretroviral treatment, leading to an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 avoided deaths in 2005, according to the report (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/21). "Second wave" countries such as China, India and Russia must "tamp down AIDS" before "it's too late," the Chronicle says, adding that rich countries must contribute funding above the estimated $9 billion already pledged for next year. Waiting for "a surefire curative or a vaccination" is not "a strategy in this war," the editorial says, adding that prevention messages can reduce the number of new infections now. "Dispelling myths and ignorance with facts pays off," the editorial says. "While the world braces for a possible avian flu pandemic, it shouldn't forget one that's already here -- AIDS," the Chronicle says (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.