(Photo: Reuters/Denis Balibouse)
The United Nations HIV/AIDS program has called for an increase in funding to help treat those with HIV, saying that a new study has revealed it could reduce the risk of HIV transmission by up to 96 percent.
UNAIDS head, Michael Sidibe, has explained the two greatest challenges currently were to expand access to drug treatments, and to combat the social factors that stigmatize the disease.
Earlier this week the U.N. released a report revealing that there had been almost a 25 percent reduction in new HIV infections, as well as a decline in AIDS-related deaths between 2001 and 2009.
The report also recorded that the rate of new HIV infections fell by more than 50 percent in India, and by more than 35 percent in South Africa. The results for those two countries offer particularly hopeful news, as they are the countries with the largest number of people living with HIV on their continents.
Prevention and awareness efforts are also heralding hopeful results in the report, with people on the whole starting to follow safer sexual behavior. Although the report revealed that young men were more likely to be informed about prevention methods than young women in many regions.
Significantly, prevention efforts among children has seen good progress with increasing numbers of mothers living with HIV being given access to antiretroviral prophylaxis during pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding. The number of people receiving antiretroviral drugs at the end of 2010 showed almost a 22-fold increase since 2001.
However, the report worryingly found that at the end of 2010 almost 9 million people who needed treatment were not getting it. Furthermore, treatment access for children was significantly lower than for adults.
Also although the rate of new HIV infections had declined globally, the total number of HIV infections remained high, with approximately 7,000 a day still being infected. The report also revealed that infections had increased in Eastern Europe, the Middle East as well as North Africa.
According to the BBC, Sidibe commented: “I am worried that international investments are falling at a time when the AIDS response is delivering results for people. If we do not invest now, we will have to pay several times more in the future.”
He also highlighted the results of a result trial, which found that if a person living with HIV were able to successfully follow an effective antiretroviral regimen, the risk of transmitting the virus to their uninfected sexual partner could be reduced by up to 96 percent. Sidibe told: “Access to treatment will transform the AIDS response in the next decade.
“Antiretroviral therapy is a bigger game-changer than ever before - it not only stops people from dying, but also prevents transmission of HIV to women, men and children.”
UNAIDS estimates that it needs at least $22 billion by 2015; a figure $6 billion more than being offered today. With these increased funds the organization believes it could stop 12 million people being infected by HIV, as well as preventing 7.4 million AIDS-related deaths by 2020.
The U.N. headquarters in New York will host its General Assembly next week, with 20 world leaders and more than 100 ministers scheduled to attend a debate on the epidemic.