HIV/AIDS: UN report show decline in Africa, increase in Europe and Asia

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United Nation’s programme on HIV/AIDS, UNAIDS has announced that HIV-AIDS infections have reduced in Africa, but are increasing in Eastern Europe and central Asia. However the report shows an overall decline of the epidemic.

A report released by UNAIDS has revealed that the AIDS epidemic is declining in Sub-Saharan Africa which is the region most affected by HIV-AIDS, with around 70% of all new HIV infections. However, infection rates are reportedly falling, particularly in South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia.

“We’ve had a 50 percent reduction of infections among young people in South Africa, which is a huge reservoir. Relations between parents and children over discussing sexuality are changing. Previously, no one would talk about it. Now, more people are willing to talk to their children,” Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS, said in an interview in Manhattan last week quoted by The Telegraph.

Eastern Europe and central Asia have however shown sharp rises in new HIV infections and Aids-related deaths. UNAIDS say the HIV/AIDS epidemic is concentrated among heroin-injectors and their sexual partners in these parts of the world.

HIV disproportionately affects homosexual men, who constitute about half of all infected people in developed countries.

According to analysts, the decline of the HIV-AIDS prevalence is down to the fact that the rates of treatment using anti-retroviral drugs have risen from 700,000 in 2004 to over 5m people in 2009.

“We are breaking the trajectory of the Aids epidemic with bold actions and smart choices. Investments in the AIDS response are paying off, but gains are fragile – the challenge now is how we can all work to accelerate progress,” Sidibe, was quoted as saying.

On a global scale, the report revealed that the 2.6 million HIV infections from 1999 to 2009 dropped down almost 20% this year. In 2009, 1.8m died from Aids-related illnesses, down from 2.1m in 2004. Michel Sidibe says the statistics show the spread of HIV has halted in some places.

While the report shows a decline in HIV and AIDS infection and deaths, it says stigma and discrimination continue to cause problems for the estimated 33 million people living with HIV. The UN says bad laws and discrimination, particularly in respect to drug users and homosexuals, continue to hamper the fight against Aids.

The international pre-exposure prophylaxis initiative trial, published on 23 November in the New England Journal of Medicine show that once a day dosing of a pill containing two standard antiretrovirals offers significant protection against infection with the virus. UNAIDS say about 25 countries are doing better at prevention, including several in southern Africa with sky-high AIDS rates.

About 5.2 million people are reported to be getting anti-retroviral drugs more than ever before, a result of the multinational Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and American initiative President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

Nonetheless, 10 million more still need the treatment immediately, and progress still needs to be made before it can be said that the world is winning the war on AIDS.

Health file  The lack of education and political will, poverty, out-moded traditional beliefs, to mention but a few, have been widely blamed for causing severe and sometimes unwarranted health catastrophies of genocidal proportions on the African continent. Child killer diseases, malaria, tuberculosis, water borne diseases, HIV/AIDS, among other preventable ailments have killed millions in their wake. As rightly said by the former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, on May 13, 2000 "More people (...) died of Aids in the past year (1999-2000, ndlr) in Africa than in all the wars on the continent".
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