Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Poor Nations See Fall in New H.I.V. Cases ; Focus on At-Risk Groups Stems Rate of Infection, but Treatment Still Lags

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Poor Nations See Fall in New H.I.V. Cases ; Focus on At-Risk Groups Stems Rate of Infection, but Treatment Still Lags

Article excerpt

New infections with H.I.V. have dropped by half in the past decade in 25 poor and middle-income countries, the United Nations said, but global progress remains slow.

New infections with H.I.V. have dropped by half in the past decade in 25 poor and middle-income countries, many of them in Africa, the continent hardest hit by AIDS, the United Nations has said.

The greatest success has been in preventing mothers from infecting their babies, but focusing testing and treatment on high- risk groups like gay men, prostitutes and drug addicts has also paid dividends, said Michel Sidibe, the executive director of the agency U.N.AIDS.

"We are moving from despair to hope," he said Tuesday.

Despite the good news from those countries, the agency's annual report showed that globally, progress is steady but slow. By the usual measure of whether the fight against AIDS is being won, it is still being lost: 2.5 million people became infected last year, while only 1.4 million received lifesaving treatment for the first time.

"There has been tremendous progress over the last decade, but we're still not at the tipping point," said Mitchell Warren, the executive director of AVAC, an advocacy group for AIDS prevention. "And the big issue, sadly, is money."

Some regions, like Southern Africa and the Caribbean, are doing particularly well, while others, like Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East, are not. Globally, new infections are down 22 percent from 2001, when there were 3.2 million. Among newborns, they fell 40 percent, to 330,000 from 550,000.

The two most important financial forces in the fight, the multinational Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, were both created in the early 2000s and last year provided most of the $16.8 billion spent on the disease. But the need will soon be $24 billion a year, the groups said.

"Where is that money going to come from?" Mr. Warren asked.

The number of people living with H.I.V. rose to a new high of 34 million in 2011, while the number of deaths from AIDS was 1.7 million, down from a peak of 2.3 million in 2005. As more people get life-sustaining anti-retroviral treatment, the number of people living with H.I.V. grows.

Globally, the number of people on anti-retroviral drugs reached 8 million, up from 6.6 million in 2010. However, an additional 7 million are sick enough to need them. The situation is worse for children; 72 percent of those needing pediatric anti-retrovirals do not get them.

New infections fell most drastically since 2001 in Southern Africa -- 71 percent in Botswana, 58 percent in Zambia and 41 percent in South Africa, which has the world's biggest epidemic. …

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