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UNAIDS Report Indicates End To AIDS Possible But Challenges Remain

UNAIDS’ World AIDS Day report: Results, released on Tuesday, said the goal of eventually ending the global AIDS epidemic “is more than merely visionary” and “is entirely feasible,” primarily because of “historic success” in scaling up HIV programs and improving access to antiretroviral drugs to treat and prevent HIV, Reuters reports (Kelland, 11/20). According to the report, “[t]wenty-five countries, many in hard-hit Africa, have at least halved new HIV infections in the past decade, with particular progress made toward protecting children from the deadly virus,” Agence France-Presse writes (11/20). “UNAIDS says that half the global reductions in new HIV infections in the last two years have been among newborn children,” PlusNews writes. “But the epidemic is not over in any part of the world, and is gaining pace in some,” the news service continues, noting the number of new infections has increased in the Middle East and North Africa (11/20). The report “stresses that countries must dramatically ramp up both [prevention and treatment efforts] if the world hopes to meet the ambitious goals agreed upon last year at a special session of the United Nations,” ScienceInsider writes (Cohen, 11/20).

“In general, we’ve moved from a phase of political rhetoric to programs being implemented and having an effect,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe told BBC News, adding, “But some countries aren’t using the right strategies — Russia, for example, where infections are still growing,” according to the news service (Dreaper, 11/20). Speaking about Eastern Europe, where the number of new HIV infections is increasing, Peter Ghys, chief of epidemiology and analysis at UNAIDS, said, “A lot of the transmissions there are among intravenous drug users and so some of the key countries in that region actually are not, or are not yet, implementing the right policies, policies to reduce transmissions in that situation,” VOA News reports (11/20). “Prevention programs for groups of people who are at particular risk, such as sex workers, drug users and men who have sex with men, are far too limited,” according to the report, the Guardian notes (Boseley, 11/20). In addition, “Sidibe acknowledged that persuading rich countries to keep donating money was a struggle,” the New York Times reports (McNeil, 11/20). Although “the report shows that countries are increasing their investments despite a difficult economic climate … [t]he global gap in resources needed annually by 2015 now stands at 30 percent,” the U.N. News Centre writes, adding, “In 2011, $16.8 billion was available and the need for 2015 is between $22-24 billion (11/20). The Guardian’s “Data Blog” discusses the report’s figures in detail (Burn-Murdoch, 11/20).