The UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report highlights large gains in the reduction of AIDS-related deaths, even in some of the world’s hardest-hit countries.
According to the report, globally there were an estimated 34 million people living with HIV in 2010, and since 2005, AIDS-related deaths decreased from 2.2 million to 1.8 million.
The statistics come as part of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS’s (UNAIDS) report on the global status of AIDS, published ahead of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1. This year’s report, entitled How to Get to Zero: Faster. Smarter. Better., lauded international efforts to stem the spread of the disease and those helping infected persons mitigate symptoms and stigma — calling 2011 a “game-changing” year for AIDS response.
“Even in a very difficult financial crisis, countries are delivering results in the AIDS response.” said Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS. “We have seen a massive scale up in access to HIV treatment, which has had a dramatic effect on the lives of people everywhere.”
The report attributed the marked decline in AIDS-related deaths to increased availability and use of lifesaving antiretroviral drugs. Nearly 2.5 million deaths are estimated to have been averted in low- and middle-income countries due to increased access to HIV treatment since 1995.
“Close to half of all people who need treatment are currently accessing that treatment. So this comes to about 6.6 million people. Some of the same drugs are also used to reduce mother-to-child transmission. So that’s another area where we are seeing favorable trends,” UNAIDS chief epidemiologist Peter Ghys told Voice of America.
According to UNAIDS and World Health Organization estimates, 47 percent (6.6 million) of the estimated 14.2 million people eligible for treatment in low- and middle-income countries were accessing lifesaving antiretroviral therapy in 2010, up a total of 1.35 million since 2009.
In addition to the decline in deaths, the organization notes that new HIV infections have also reduced or have stabilized in most parts of the world. In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of new HIV infections has dropped by more than 26 percent, from the height of the epidemic in 1997, and even South Africa, the country with the largest number of new HIV infections in the world, saw a one-third drop in new infections.
Caribbean nations saw new HIV infections decline by a third since 2001, and Dominican Republic and Jamaica specifically saw infections drop by more than 25 percent. The more impressive reduction however was in India, whose number of new HIV infections fell by a whopping 56 percent.
UNAIDS says that changes in sexual behavior, such as the reduction of numbers of sexual partners, increased condom use and longer waiting periods before youth becoming sexually active are the main reasons behind the decrease in infections.
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