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Inside Story

Can AIDS be beaten?

As a new report by the UN shows a remarkable drop in HIV infections, we ask if treatment is reaching everyone in need.

Last updated: 21 Nov 2013 12:00
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The world may be closing in on its stated goal to end the AIDS epidemic.

A new report released by UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, on Wednesday says that efforts to stem the growth of the disease across the planet have seen "accelerated progress".

We are for the first time ... starting to have the end of AIDS in sight. There are more people under treatment than ever before … Infections are coming down … but we have a risk today of continuing to leave individuals and regions behind, regions like Eastern Europe, like the Middle East, and people that belong for instance to key populations of the epidemic today - like sexual workers, homosexual men, migrants. 

Dr Luiz Loures, deputy executive director of programme for UNAIDS

The report, Location, Location, shows there were 2.3 million new HIV infections in 2012 - an important decrease from 2.7 million in 2010.

This is the lowest number since the peak of the epidemic in the late-1990s, when there were 3.5 million new cases a year.
 
The latest drop has been most noticeable among children. In 2001, more than half a million new cases were recorded, while last year, that figure had dropped to some 260,000.

Overall, the number of AIDS-related deaths has dropped from a high of 2.3 million in 2005 to 1.6 million in 2012.

This is a significant achievement, but it is still well short of the UN vision of zero new HIV infections and zero AIDS-related deaths.

But what is the reason for the drop in new HIV infections?

Antiretroviral therapy for a single year used to cost $10,000 per person in the mid-1990s. Last year the annual cost dropped to just $140 per person.

This has further been helped by an increased commitment by politicians and further advances in science.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, one million fewer people contracted HIV in 2012 compared to 2001 - a drop of almost 40 percent. In Latin America, 11,000 fewer people were infected by HIV, accounting for an 11 percent drop. And in the Caribbean, the number of new cases fell by more than 50 percent.

But that was not the case in the Middle East and North Africa, where the number of people thought to have been infected by HIV rose by more than 50 percent since 2001.

So, what is behind the progress being seen in many parts of the world? Will AIDS eventually be beaten? And what can be done to improve the situation in the Middle East and North Africa? 

To discuss this, Inside Story, with presenter Jane Dutton, is joined by guests: Dr Luiz Loures, the deputy executive director of programme for UNAIDS; and Elie Aaraj, the president of the regional Arab Network Against AIDS. 

"Our main concern is that this is for the third year that [the] MENA region, the Middle East and North African region, has the highest increase of new contaminated and registered people, so this is our fear because we are trying to keep the prevalence very low ... But our problem is that in this region we have the lowest coverage of treatment and the healthcare service related to HIV, and this is also another burden in the society and the governments, an economic burden."

Elie Aaraj, president of the Regional Arab Network Against AIDS. 

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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