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U.N. Secretary-General Releases Report Assessing Global Response To HIV/AIDS

Nearly 30 years since researchers first described HIV/AIDS, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday in Nairobi, Kenya, released a report (.pdf) assessing the global HIV/AIDS response, Agence France-Presse reports (3/31).

According to a UNAIDS press release, the rate of new HIV infections has fallen by at least 25% over the past 10 years in 33 countries – including 22 in sub-Saharan Africa; more than six million people were on antiretroviral treatment by the end of 2010; and services to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV reached more than half of those in need in 2009 (3/31).

However, the report notes, “These accomplishments, while promising, are insufficient and in jeopardy. Stigma, discrimination and gender inequality continue to undermine efforts to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. An unsustainable trajectory of costs and the effects of a global economic downturn combine to threaten progress” (3/28).

The report, “based on data submitted by 182 countries,” offers five key recommendations to bolster the global fight against HIV/AIDS, the UNAIDS release states. These include efforts to: engage youth in “an HIV prevention revolution”; “[r]evitalize the push towards achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2015”; promote HIV programs that are both cost-effective and cost-efficient; “[p]romote the health, human rights and dignity of women and girls; and ensure mutual accountability in the AIDS response to translate commitments into action” (3/31).

“World leaders have a unique opportunity at this critical moment to evaluate achievements and gaps in the global AIDS response,” Ban said during the launch of the report, Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports. “We must take bold decisions that will dramatically transform the AIDS response and help us move towards an HIV-free generation,” he added.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe, who joined Ban for the release of the report, added, “Thirty years into the epidemic, it is imperative for us to re-energise the response today for success in the years ahead” (3/31).

To meet the targets of “zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths” by 2015 set on World AIDS Day 2010, Ban outlined several goals for member states, according to AFP (3/31). These include: reducing sexual transmission of HIV by 50 percent; ensuring that 13 million people receive HIV treatment; reducing TB deaths among people living with HIV/AIDS by 50 percent; eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS; promoting education for children affected by HIV/AIDS; and reducing “the number of countries with HIV-related restrictions on entry, stay or residence” by 50 percent, the report states (3/28).

“As international funding for HIV assistance declined for the first time in 2009, the report [also] encourages countries to prioritize funding for HIV programmes, including low- and middle-income countries that have the ability to cover their own HIV-related costs,” the UNAIDS release adds. “It also stresses the importance of shared responsibility and accountability to ensure the AIDS response has sufficient resources for the coming years,” the release states (3/31).

Xinhua reports that the recommendations “will be reviewed by global leaders at a U.N. General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS, 8-10 June 2011” (Mutai, 3/31).

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