20 November 2013 The United Nations today reported accelerated progress in combating HIV/AIDS in much of the world, with significant decreases in new infections and deaths, but worrying signs persist that some regions and countries are falling behind in the global battle.
New infections globally were estimated at 2.3 million in 2012, a 33 per cent reduction since 2001 and AIDS-related deaths dropped by 30 per cent since the peak in 2005 to 1.6 million, as access to antiretroviral treatment expands, the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said ahead of World AIDS Day early next month.
New infections among children dropped to 260,000, a 52 per cent reduction since 2001 and 9.7 million people in low- and middle-income countries were accessing antiretroviral therapy, an increase of nearly 20 per cent in just one year.
But new HIV infections have been on the rise in Eastern Europe and Central Asia – up by 13 per cent since 2006 – and have doubled in the Middle East and North Africa since 2001.
In these regions, key populations, including men who have sex with men, people who use drugs, transgender people and sex workers are often blocked from accessing life-saving services.
“Every person counts,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé said. “If we are going to keep our pledge of leaving no one behind, we have to make sure HIV services reaches everyone in need.”
Funding for HIV prevention services for men who have sex with men is especially limited in East Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and across sub-Saharan Africa. Investments also lag in several countries where HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs is high.
Ten countries in which HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs exceeds 10 per cent allocate less than 5 per cent of HIV spending to harm-reduction programmes. Despite sex workers’ disproportionate risk of acquiring HIV, prevention programmes for them account for a meagre share of HIV prevention funding globally.
While much work needs to be done in Eastern Europe, Ukraine for the first time last year reported a decline in the number of newly identified HIV cases, a turning point for the country. There are an estimated 200,000 people living with HIV in Ukraine. At 21.5 per cent, HIV prevalence is highest among people who inject drugs.
UNAIDS stressed that in priority countries only three in 10 children receive HIV treatment, while 64 per cent of adults do. “We have seen tremendous political commitment and results to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV, but we are failing the children who become infected,” Mr. Sidibé said. “We urgently need better diagnostic tools and child-friendly medicines irrespective of the market size.”
Although the number of children receiving antiretroviral therapy in 2012 increased by 14 per cent compared to 2011, the pace of scale-up was substantially slower than for adults, a 21 per cent increase.
Despite a flattening in donor funding for HIV, which has remained around the same as 2008 levels, domestic spending on HIV has increased, accounting for 53 per cent of global HIV resources in 2012. The total available for HIV in 2012 was estimated at $18.9 billion, $3-5 billion short of the $22-24 billion estimated to be needed annually by 2015.
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