Africa leads fall in HIV infections

Many of the worst hit countries have seen a 25 per cent drop in new infections since 2001, a UN report says.

    Increased awareness has contributed to the fall in new infections in sub-Saharan Africa [File: EPA]

    Sub-Saharan African nations whose populations have been hardest hit by Aids have made significant strides in tackling HIV, the incurable viral infection that causes Aids, according to a United Nations report.

    New infections have fallen by 25 per cent in some of the worst hit countries, the UN Aids programme (UNAids) report said on Friday.

    "The data shows that countries with the largest epidemics in Africa - Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe - are leading the drop in new HIV infections," the UN programme said in a statement.

    Twenty-two sub-Saharan countries saw the rate of new infections fall by more than one-quarter between 2001 and 2009.

    "For the first time change is happening at the heart of the epidemic," Michel Sidibe, UN Aids executive director, said in a statement.

    "In places where HIV was stealing away dreams, we now have hope."

    'Increased awareness'

    Better prevention measures and awareness are contributing to the decline, the report said. A 12-fold increase in the number of people on HIV treatment has also been recorded in the past six years, bringing the total number of patients receiving medication to 5.2 million.

    However, sub-Saharan Africa remains the region worst affected by HIV, accounting for 67 per cent of all people living with the virus worldwide, 71 per cent of Aids-related deaths and 91 per cent of new infections among children.

    The report also warned of rapidly expanding HIV epidemics in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where there are up to 500 new infections a day in some areas, and a resurgence among homosexuals in some high-income countries.

    Sidibe also warned that a $10 billion shortfall in the funding for combatting Aids in 2009 could put further progress at risk.

    "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," he said. 

    UNAids recommends national governments allocate between 0.5 per cent and three percent of government revenue to HIV and Aids, depending on the prevalence of disease in their country.

    The report said that while domestic investments in tackling Aids have increased over the past decade, for a majority of the countries severely affected by the disease, those would not be enough to meet their needs.

    The UN report charts progress towards a globally agreed Millennium Development Goal to halt and start to reverse the spread of Aids by 2015.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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