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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

UN: Global AIDS Epidemic Continues To Grow

The global AIDS epidemic continues to grow and there is concerning evidence that some countries are seeing a resurgence in new HIV infection rates which were previously stable or declining. However, declines in infection rates are also being observed in some countries, as well as positive trends in young people's sexual

According to the latest figures published today in the UNAIDS/WHO 2006
AIDS Epidemic Update, an estimated 39.5 million people are living with HIV.
There were 4.3 million new infections in 2006 with 2.8 million (65%) of
these occurring in sub-Saharan Africa and important increases in Eastern
Europe and Central Asia, where there are some indications that infection
rates have risen by more than 50% since 2004. In 2006, 2.9 million people
died of AIDS-related illnesses.

New data suggest that where HIV prevention programs have not been
sustained and/or adapted as epidemics have changed-infection rates in some
countries are staying the same or going back up.

In North America and Western Europe, HIV prevention programs have
often not been sustained and the number of new infections has remained the
same. Similarly in low- and middle-income countries, there are only a few
examples of countries that have actually reduced new infections. And some
countries that had showed earlier successes in reducing new infections,
such as Uganda, have either slowed or are now experiencing increasing
infection rates.

"This is worrying-as we know increased HIV prevention programmes in
these countries have shown progress in the past-Uganda being a prime
example. This means that countries are not moving at the same speed as
their epidemics," says UNAIDS Executive Director Dr Peter Piot. "We need to
greatly intensify life-saving prevention efforts while we expand HIV
treatment programs."

New data from the report show that increased HIV prevention programmes
that are focused and adapted to reach those most at risk of HIV infection
are making inroads.

Positive trends in young people's sexual behaviours-increased use of
condoms, delay of sexual debut, and fewer sexual partners-have taken place
over the past decade in many countries with generalized epidemics. Declines
in HIV prevalence among young people between 2000 and 2005 are evident in
Botswana, Burundi, C-te d'Ivoire, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania and

In other countries, even limited resources are showing high returns
when investments are focused on the needs of people most likely to be
exposed to HIV. In China, there are some examples of focused programmes for
sex workers that have seen marked increases in condom use and decreases in
rates of sexually transmitted infections, and programmes with injecting
drug users are also showing progress in some regions. And in Portugal, HIV
diagnoses among drug injectors were almost one third (31 percent) lower in 2005,
compared with 2001, following the implementation of special prevention
programs focused on HIV and drug use.

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