Over twenty of the most badly affected countries in sub-Saharan Africa have reported reductions in HIV infection rates of over 25% between 2001 and 2009, according to a new report issued by UNAIDS. Countries such as Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Zimbabwe, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Ethiopia are making considerable headway, the report writes. This is significant progress towards the Millenium Development Goal 6 (MDG 6), the United Nations agency said.
UNAIDS reports that the HIV infection rate appears to be either steadily falling or stabilizing in most countries.
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé, said:
We are seeing real progress towards MDG 6. For the first time change is happening at the heart of the epidemic. In places where HIV was stealing away dreams, we now have hope.
Central Asia and Eastern Europe, however, continue reporting expanding HIV epidemics. UNAIDS adds that some developed nations have been experiencing a resurgence of HIV infections among men who have sex with men.
At 5.2 million, there are 12 times as many people receiving HIV treatment today compared to six years ago. As more infected people now have access to treatment, the number of AIDS deaths were 200,000 lower in 2008 than 2004.
According to UNAIDS, the following factors have helped bring HIV infection rates down:
- More young people are waiting longer before starting to engage in sexual activity
- Condom use has more than doubled among adults globally over the last five years
- More people have fewer sexual partners
UNAIDS informs that male circumcision can reduce HIV infection rates among men by almost 60%. A microbicide which is initiated and controlled by women can also help prevent HIV infection.
Michel Sidibé said:
To sustain the gains we are making, further investments in research and development are needed - not only for a small wealthy minority - but also focused to meet the needs of the majority.
China has improved access to harm reduction programs for individuals who use injectable addictive drugs. According to China's sentinel surveillance, 71.5% of China's injectable drug addicts use sterile syringes now, compared to just 40.5% in 2007.
South Africa is close to offering universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, the UNAIDS report informs. The country has seen a 25% drop in new HIV infections among adults and young people. A record number of South African women now have access to treatment to prevent HIV transmission from mother to baby.
AIDS response is US $10 billion shortUNAIDS informs that investments for AIDS in 2008 were higher than in 2009. An estimated $15.9 billion was made available for the global AIDS response in 2009 - $10 billion less than current estimated needs.
At this turning point flat-lining or reductions in investments will set-back the AIDS response and threaten the world's ability to reach MDG 6. Investing for AIDS is a shared responsibility - between development partners and national governments.
National government should ideally allocate between 0.5% and 3% of their government revenue on HIV, depending on the infection's prevalence of the nation, UNAIDS recommends. Although domestic investments have increased considerably over the last ten years, they alone will not be enough to meet all their resource requirements.
Efficiency and effectiveness drives can help make AIDS programs become more affordable and sustainable, Sidibé adds. The secret is concentrating resources in the right directing, reducing unit costs, and focusing on effectiveness (what works).
Written by Christian Nordqvist