Report Shows Big Drop in New HIV Infections

A new report from UNAIDS indicates that the rate of new HIV infections

has dropped significantly over the past decade. The report estimated

2.3 million adults and children were newly infected with HIV in 2012,

a figure that represents a 33 percent reduction in annual new cases

compared to 2001. The report says the most striking results in

combating HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, are to be found among

children, for which the number of new HIV infections has been cut by

52 percent since 2001. Mahesh Mahalingam is the Director of the Office

of the Deputy Executive Director of UNAIDS. He said a major element of

this progress is that many more pregnant women who are living with HIV

are receiving medication that prevents transmission of the disease

from mother to child. "Nearly 62 percent of women who are pregnant and

have HIV have received anti- retroviral medicine. As a result, the

number of children becoming infected with HIV has dropped to record

low levels from nearly half a million just about 10 years ago. Now

only about 260,000 children were infected with HIV. We hope that by

2015, we can bring this number down to virtually zero," said

Mahalingam. The report notes that some 9.7 million people in low and

middle-income countries were accessing antiretroviral therapy by the

end of 2012, an increase of nearly 20 percent in just one year. The

report's authors say this dramatic acceleration makes them optimistic

that the Millennium Development Goal of having 15 million people on

HIV treatment will be reached by the 2015 target date. In 2012, the

report found an estimated 35.3 million people globally were living

with HIV and 1.6 million had died from AIDS-related illnesses. Sub-

Saharan Africa remains the most heavily infected region in the world.

It says most new HIV infections have occurred in Sub-Saharan Africa,

while the continent as a whole accounts for nearly 75 percent of all

people living with HIV in the world. Mahalingam points out that

government leadership combined with community action is succeeding in

turning the epidemic around in some places. "The most amount of

progress is happening in the country that has the largest number of

people living with HIV in the world, and that is South Africa. In

South Africa, record numbers of people have been put on antiretroviral

therapy and… about 50 percent decline in new infections have occurred

in that country," he said. The study found rises in new HIV infections

in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. It says Ukraine

is making progress in combating the disease, but elsewhere in Eastern

Europe drug-injecting users are fueling the epidemic. It says most new

HIV infections in developed, Western countries are occurring among gay

men. It says people in the United States and Europe view AIDS as a

chronic disease, one which can be treated with medication. As a

consequence, the report says many people are becoming complacent and

are no longer taking preventive measures. UNAIDS says punitive laws

that criminalize sexual behavior, in addition to stigma and

discrimination, prevent people from coming forward to learn their HIV

status and get treatment. It warns that this has the effect of driving

the disease underground and worsening the epidemic.

[Lisa Schlein]

Kofi Oppong Kyekyeku

I am a Ghanaian Broadcast Journalist/Writer who has an interest in General News, Sports, Entertainment, Health, Lifestyle and many more.

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