United Nations reports 'dramatic' progress in fight against AIDS

Mon Sep 23, 2013 4:05am EDT
 
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By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - The global rate of HIV infection and the number of AIDS-related deaths have been dramatically reduced, thanks to expanding access to treatment, the United Nations said in a report issued on Monday.

In its annual update on HIV, which it said now infects around 35.3 million people worldwide, UNAIDS said deaths from AIDS and HIV infection rates were falling, while the number of people getting treatment is going up.

AIDS-related deaths in 2012 fell to 1.6 million, down from 1.7 million in 2011 and a peak of 2.3 million in 2005. And the number of people newly infected with the disease dropped to 2.3 million in 2012 down from 2.5 million in 2011.

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS can be transmitted via blood, breast milk and by semen during sex, but can be kept in check with cocktails of drugs known as antiretroviral treatment or therapy.

By the end of 2012, some 9.7 million people in poorer and middle-income countries had access to such AIDS drugs, an increase of nearly 20 percent in a year.

Since 2001, the U.N. report said, there has been a 52 percent drop in annual new HIV infections among children and a 33 percent reduction in newly infected adults and children combined.

In 2011, UN member states agreed to a target of getting HIV treatment to 15 million people by 2015. As countries scaled up treatment coverage and as evidence showed how treating HIV early also reduces its spread, the World Health Organization set new guidelines this year, expanding the number of people needing treatment by more than 10 million.

Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS' executive director, said the international community should aim to surpass the 2015 goal.   Continued...

 
About 2880 candles are seen lit during a World AIDS Day event in Jakarta December 1, 2009. REUTERS/Dadang Tri