New HIV Infections, Deaths From AIDS-Related Causes Down; Epidemic Not Over, UNAIDS Report Says
The number of deaths worldwide from AIDS-related causes decreased by 10% in 2007 to two million, compared with 2.2 million in 2006, according to UNAIDS' 2008 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic, which was released Tuesday ahead of the XVII International AIDS Conference, the Los Angeles Times reports (Maugh, Los Angeles Times, 7/30).
There were about 2.7 million new HIV cases in 2007, down from three million in 2001 (Executive summary, 7/29). According to the report, about 33 million people in 147 countries are living with HIV/AIDS (Chase, Wall Street Journal, 7/30). Increases in prevention and treatment efforts in the previous two years have contributed to reducing the epidemic's growth and the death toll (Sternberg, USA Today, 7/30).
The relatively stable number of new HIV cases was fueled by increases in countries such as China, Indonesia, Kenya, Mozambique, Russia and Vietnam, the report found (Los Angeles Times, 7/30). HIV prevalence in some African countries is beginning to level off, but prevalence is increasing in parts of Asia and Eastern Europe, according to the report. About 1.5 million people are living with HIV in Eastern Europe, 90% of whom live in Russia and Ukraine (USA Today, 7/30). About 67% of people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide and 72% of AIDS-related deaths are in sub-Saharan Africa (Cheng, AP/Google.com, 7/29).
The report found that three million people in developing countries are receiving HIV treatment -- up from fewer than 500,000 in 2003 -- at a cost of $3 billion annually. In Namibia, 88% of people in need of treatment were receiving it in 2007, compared with 1% in 2003. In Cambodia, the percentage of people receiving treatment increased from 14% in 2001 to 67% in 2007 (Los Angeles Times, 7/30). It would cost an estimated $11 billion annually to triple the number of people receiving treatment, the report said (USA Today, 7/30).
The report also found that 33% of HIV-positive pregnant women are receiving treatment to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission, up from 14% in 2006. The number of new HIV cases recorded among children worldwide decreased to 370,000 in 2007 from 410,000 in 2005, according to the report (Picard, Globe and Mail, 7/30).
The report also found that condom use is increasing among people with multiple sex partners and that adolescents are waiting longer to initiate sex. The percentage of people having sex before age 15 decreased from 35% to 14% in seven African countries, the report said (Los Angeles Times, 7/30).
Governments should continue to invest in HIV treatment and prevention efforts to continue making progress, the report said (AP/Google.com, 7/29). Although a "sixfold increase" in funding for HIV programs in developing countries from 2001 to 2007 "is beginning to bear fruit," the future of the epidemic is "uncertain" and "intensified action to move towards universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support" is needed, the report said (Dunham, Reuters, 7/29).
UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said the global community has "achieved more in the past five years" toward fighting HIV/AIDS "than in the previous 20 years." However, if governments "relax now, it would be disastrous," Piot said, adding, "It would wipe out all of our previous investments" (AP/Google.com, 7/29). "Although we have seen real progress in the last two years, if we want to continue to see results, we will need to see more financial resources and commitment," Purnima Mane, deputy executive director of the United Nations Population Fund, said (Los Angeles Times, 7/30).
Paul De Lay of UNAIDS added that the global community is "not pushing back the epidemic enough," noting that there "are still five new infections for every two people who are newly added on treatment." Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance, added that it is "time to ramp up funding from all sources -- not to slow down or go on to other things." He added, "We're on the path toward victory here. Let's invest more" (Reuters, 7/29).
James Chin, a clinical professor of epidemiology at the University of California-Berkeley, said that despite the progress, he is "not sure we will ever get to a point where we can say [HIV/AIDS] is not a public health problem." He added that until universal access to treatment is "accomplished," HIV/AIDS will continue to be a public health issue (AP/Google.com, 7/29).
The report is available online.
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