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World AIDS Day 2006: What can be done to halt and reverse the spread of AIDS?

In just 25 years, HIV has spread relentlessly from a few widely scattered “hot spots” to virtually every country in the world, infecting 65 million people and killing 25 million. The fight against AIDS, put into the spotlight by the upcoming World AIDS Day (1st December), has been identified by world leaders as one of the most urgent issues of national and international development.

To provide an overview of the current state of the epidemic and the challenges ahead, GreenFacts faithfully summarised the UNAIDS “2006 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic”.

The summaries are available in English, French, and Spanish on In addition to recent figures, the report contains recommendations on how to reach the 2015 target of halting and reversing the spread of the epidemic.

“Knowing your epidemic and understanding the drivers of the epidemic such as inequality between men and women and homophobia is absolutely fundamental to the long-term response to AIDS” said Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “Action must not only be increased dramatically, but must also be strategic, focused and sustainable to ensure that the money reaches those who need it most.”

Highlights of the UNAIDS Global AIDS Epidemic report

The report indicates that important progress has been made in the fight against AIDS. Political commitment, coordination among partners, and money available for HIV/AIDS prevention, research, and treatment have all increased significantly. Globally, access to treatment, testing, and counseling has greatly improved, but it still only reaches a small minority of those who need it.

The overall number of people living with HIV continues to rise. Today, about one adult in a hundred is living with HIV, although the extent of the epidemic varies greatly across countries and regions. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected region: in some countries, up to one adult in three is living with HIV. Other regions, such as North America, Western and Central Europe, are seeing a resurgence in new HIV infection rates which were previously stable or declining.

Progress in the fight against HIV has been very uneven across the world and much more effort is still needed. The implementation of national plans to combat the epidemic into effect is still inconsistent. Prevention programs were focused on the general public rather than on vulnerable population groups who need it most, and access to treatment only reaches one in five of those who need it. In recent years, more money has been available for research, prevention, and treatment. It is however still insufficient and in the near future the needs are expected to increase more rapidly than the money raised.

UNAIDS stresses that the objective of halting and beginning to reverse the epidemic by 2015 is achievable, but success will require unprecedented long-term efforts and strong leadership at every level of society, focusing on funding, prevention, and access to treatment.

Sandra Nebe | alfa
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