"Unless greater and swifter advances are made in reaching those who need essential services, the epidemic's burden on households, communities and societies will continue to mount," Ban Ki-moon said.

About 2.1 million people died of Aids last year and at least 33 million people worldwide have the virus, according to UN figures.

Antiretroviral drugs

Dr Peter Piot, executive director of UNAids, said two million people were
currently getting antiretroviral drugs in Africa.

Antiretroviral drugs have made HIV a manageable illness for many patients and prolonged their lives beyond what once seemed possible.

"We cannot separate the fight against HIV/Aids from the fight against TB"

Srgjan Kerim, 
UN general assembly president
The UN-backed global fund to fight aids, tuberculosis and malaria announced on Monday that it had helped a total of 1.75 million people get antiretroviral treatment, an increase of 59 per cent over last year.

However more than two-thirds of people with HIV globally are not getting any such treatment, according to UN figures.

Also people with weakened immune systems from HIV are still up to 50 times more likely to develop tuberculosis, according to UN officials.

"We cannot separate the fight against HIV/Aids from the fight against
TB," Srgjan Kerim, the general assembly president, said.

Bill Clinton, former US president,
pointed out the problems that rising oil prices will create in battling the disease.

"This oil price spike has taken away 100 per cent of the value of foreign
aid and debt relief to very many countries,'' he told the UN.

"It has dramatically increased the cost of producing food, and it has increased therefore the number of people who are at risk of these diseases."

UN failures

Critics say the scale of the epidemic is exaggerated and that failures in UN policy have contributed to the spread of the infection.

Dr James Chin, a former world health organisation HIV/Aids programme director, told Al Jazeera that the UN has been targeting the wrong group of people and that they have overstated the Aids risk.

"From the beginning the [UN] were concerned that the general public may be at risk and I think that this has proven not to be the case and that they have not really targeted the high risk group as much as they should have," he said.

"The problem is the commitment that the global community has made for the treatment of HIV requires more funding rather than less funding.
 
"Over the past couple of decades the next wave of infections into the heterosexual population other than in Africa has not materialised," he said.

Ehab El Kharrat, senior adviser for the UN development programme's HIV-Aids programme, told Al Jazeera that it was important to mobilise all sectors of society in the fight against Aids.

"The evidence is showing that the virus is very difficult to be transmitted, but no one can guarantee there is no telling whether it will spill over from the vulnerable groups to the general population - it did happen before, it can happen any time."