- Unless the balance was made in closing the gap between available resources and actual need in the HIV prevention and treatment, sub-Saharan Africa could still remain the most affected region in the world. This is the warning of the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, in a report to be presented to the General Assembly today.
The report, which highlights key findings in the fight against HIV and AIDS raises concern that although global figures of new infections were decreasing, the rate of progress in expanding universal access to prevention and treatment, was failing to keep pace with the expansion of the epidemic itself.
"The world will fall short of achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support in the absence of a significant increase in the level of resources available for HIV programmes in low- and middle-income countries," stated UN Secretary General.
Following presentation of the report, member states and civil society representatives are expected to review progress towards the agreed targets in the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS as well as the 2006 UN Political Declaration on the pandemic.
Key findings from UN Secretary-General's report points amongst others that an estimated 33.2 million (range 30.6 - 36.1 million) people worldwide were living with HIV as of December 2007. It further states that annual rate of new HIV infections appears to have decreased over the last decade, with an estimated 2.5 million people newly infected with HIV in 2007 - down from 3.2 million in 1998. The annual number of AIDS deaths has also declined from 3.9 million in 2001 to 2.1 million in 2007, the report states.
Looking the progress made in achieving universal access to treatment, it states that Antiretroviral coverage reached 3 million people in low- and middle-income countries, Which is only about 30 per cent of those in need. The report further discloses that despite the existence of affordable treatments for tuberculosis, only 31 per cent of people with HIV/TB co-infection received both antiretroviral and anti-TB drugs in 2007.
According to new figures in the report, Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 68 per cent of all adults living with HIV, 90 per cent of the world's HIV-infected children, and 76 per cent of all AIDS deaths in 2007. The region is the most-affected, where AIDS remains the leading cause of death. Further, according to the report, worldwide, women represent half of all HIV infections among adults, but 61 per cent of those infected are in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Seceretary General's report points out that a number of new infections has yet to fall in some of the most heavily affected countries, such as Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa, adding that even where infection levels have stabilized or declined, the dimensions of the epidemic remain alarming - especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where HIV remains one of the greatest threats to development.
Although the UN recognises global lows in new infections, the report discloses that people newly infected have increased in a number of countries, including China, Indonesia, Russia and Ukraine, in European Union countries and in North America.
The report of the Secretary-General is based on analysis of inputs from Governments on national progress in the response to HIV. As of 10 March 2008, 147 countries had reported national information against 25 core indicators developed to track implementation of the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS.
The High-Level Meeting on AIDS will open today, with a formal plenary session of the General Assembly. Statements will be made by the President of the General Assembly, the UN Secretary-General, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, the Director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and an HIV-positive member of Coordination of Action Research on AIDS.
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