The United Nations said there has been more than a 50 percent drop in new HIV infections across more than two dozen countries—most in Africa—and noted a significant drop in new cases among children.
The 25 nations were described by the U.N. as low- and middle-income countries, but the recent figures show a dramatic reduction in the virus. There was a 73 percent reduction in Malawi, a 71 percent reduction in Botswana, 68 percent in Namibia, 58 percent in Zambia, 50 percent in Zimbabwe, and a 41 percent reduction in Swaziland and in South Africa—the country with the most infections.
There have also been fewer HIV infections in children, the U.N. said. Half of the new worldwide infections in the past two years were among newborn babies. There were 330,000 new infections in children in 2011, around a 25 percent reduction since 2009.
“It is becoming evident that achieving zero new HIV infections in children is possible,”
--Michel Sidibé, executive director, UNAIDS
“It is becoming evident that achieving zero new HIV infections in children is possible,” Michel Sidibé, the head of UNAIDS, in a statement. “I am excited that far fewer babies are being born with HIV. We are moving from despair to hope.”
The agency attributed the decline in deaths to better access to antiretroviral therapy, with an increase of 63 percent in the past two years.
The figures come as AIDS-related deaths fell by more than 25 percent between 2005 and 2011 around the world.
“The pace of progress is quickening—what used to take a decade is now being achieved in 24 months,” said Sidibé. “We are scaling up faster and smarter than ever before. It is the proof that with political will and follow through we can reach our shared goals by 2015.”
Low- and middle-income countries have doubled spending combating and treating AIDS to $8.6 billion since 2005, outpacing international funding that reached only $8.2 billion last year, according to figures released by the U.N. reported by Business Week.
The U.N. said that around 6.8 million people are eligible for AIDS or HIV treatment, but do not have access. And it said that of the 34 million people living with HIV, around half do not know they are infected.
While there has been notable progress in quelling the rise in new HIV infections, still some 2.5 million people were infected in 2011, the U.N. said.
It added that around 1.7 million people died from AIDS-related diseases last year, underscoring the need for more investment and action.
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