Understanding most recent HIV infections crucial for further prevention, UN report says

28 November 2008 – The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) today called on countries to realign their prevention programmes by better understanding how the most recent infections were transmitted and the reasons why they occurred.

“Not only will this approach help prevent the next 1,000 infections in each community, but it will also make money for AIDS work more effectively and help put forward a long-term and sustainable AIDS response,” UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said in a report issued to mark the 20th anniversary of the first observance of World AIDS Day.

Findings from countries that have conducted studies on the modes of transmission and developed incidence estimates have highlighted three broad trends. First, patterns of epidemics can change over time and therefore such analyses must be undertaken at regular intervals.

Second, in many sub-Saharan African countries with high HIV prevalence, new infections occur mainly as a result of having multiple sex partners and among discordant couples – that is where one partner is HIV positive and one is HIV negative.

Third, in many countries, even with high HIV prevalence among the general population, substantial numbers of new infections might also occur in populations at higher risk of exposure to HIV, including sex workers and their clients, injecting drug users, and men who have sex with men, groups who often receive little attention in prevention initiatives.

“There is no single magic bullet for HIV prevention, but we can choose wisely from the known prevention options available so that they can reinforce and complement each other and cut back the wave of ongoing new HIV infections that is stripping away gains in treatment,” Dr. Piot said.

Even though the number of new HIV infections has fallen in several countries, there are five new HIV infections for every two people put on treatment. As reported earlier in 2008, some 3 million people are now receiving antiretroviral treatment in low- and middle-income countries.

The global financial crisis could lead to funding cutbacks, which, in turn, will have harmful impacts throughout the developing world generally and in the AIDS response in particular.


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