29 September 2010

World won't meet 2010 AIDS target

UN agencies warned that the world will fail to meet an end-2010 deadline for "universal" access to HIV/AIDS care and treatment.


UN agencies warned that the world will fail to meet an end-2010 deadline for "universal" access to HIV/AIDS care and treatment, while new crisis-driven funding cuts could unravel any gains.

The World Health Organisation, UNAIDS, and the UN Children's Fund UNICEF said in a joint report that the target of universal access - defined as access for 80% of the HIV positive population - to prevention, treatment and care was within 'clear reach' for "a good number of countries."

"Nevertheless, this report also demonstrates that, on a global scale, targets for universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care will not be met by 2010," the report said.

Despite accelerating progress, the report covering 183 nations underlined that only one third of those in need worldwide have access to life-saving anti- retroviral drugs to counter the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS.

Millions received treatment

Some 5.2 million people were receiving such treatment in low to middle income countries, the key battleground for the fight against the near three decades old pandemic with the highest burden of the disease.

That marked a 30% increase over a year earlier and a 13-fold increase in six years, but another 10 million people approximately did not have such treatment in those nations.

Only eight middle to low income countries - including Cambodia, Cuba and Rwanda had achieved the treatment target by the end of 2009, it found.

The agencies spearheading the fight against HIV/AIDS underlined that the scale of prevention measures was still insufficient, four years after the UN's member states set the broad 2010 access target.

7,000 die per day of a treatable illness

"It's unacceptable that 7,000 people a day are dying of a chronic, treatable illness," said Kevin Moody of the Global Network of People Living with AIDS.

The report estimated that most people with HIV were still unaware that they were infected.

"We consider that about 60% of people in low and middle income countries do not know they are HIV positive," World Health Organisation HIV/AIDS coordinator Yves Souteyrand told.

The most vulnerable people, including those with HIV, sex workers, drug users, men with a homosexual experience, prisoners and migrants were still victims of stigma and discrimination, adding to their marginalisation from treatment and care, the report argued.

Commitments were reassessed due to financial crisis

"At the same time, the financial crisis and resulting economic recession have prompted some countries to reassess their commitments to HIV programmes," it added.

Reduced funding "risks undoing the gains of the past years," said the heads of the agencies, including WHO Director General Margaret Chan, amid warnings that the effort was 10 billion dollars short last year.

More than 33 million people around the world have HIV, according to most recent UN estimates for 2008. (Sapa./ September 2010)

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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria before working for an HIV/AIDS NPO in Soweto for many years. She was named one of the Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2012.

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