More people than ever are living with HIV, while the number of new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths have fallen to the lowest levels since the peak of the epidemic in 1997, a new report from the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) finds.
According to the 2011 UNAIDS World AIDS Day report (52 pages, PDF), an estimated 34 million people are living with HIV, including 6.6 million in low- and middle-income countries. Since 1997, new HIV infections have declined by 21 percent, while AIDS-related deaths have fallen 21 percent, from an estimated 2.2 million in 2005 to an estimated 1.8 million in 2010.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of new HIV infections has fallen by more than 26 percent from the height of the epidemic, due in part to a 33 percent drop in South Africa, historically the country with the largest number of new HIV infections. In the Caribbean, new HIV infections have been reduced by a third from 2001 levels, while in India new infections fell 56 percent. In addition, some 400,000 children in low- and middle-income countries are estimated to have been spared infection since 1995 due to improved access to effective antiretroviral regimens, while almost half of all pregnant women living with HIV were able to access effective antiretroviral regimens by 2010.
Maintaining that progress going forward could be a challenge, however, as funding for AIDS-related efforts has fallen for the first time since the virus was identified thirty years ago, the Guardian reports. The UN, which has outlined a new framework for high-impact evidence-based AIDS investments, estimates that at least $22 billion is needed by 2015 for the framework to be implemented. At the end of last year, some $15 billion was available for the AIDS response in low- and middle-income countries, with donor funding down some 10 percent on a year-over-year basis.
"Never, in more than a decade of treating people living with HIV and AIDS, have we been at such a promising moment to really turn this epidemic around," Dr. Tido von Schoen-Angerer, executive director of the access campaign at M�decins Sans Fronti�res, told the Guardian. "Governments in some of the hardest-hit countries want to act on the science, seize this moment, and reverse the epidemic. But this means nothing if there is no money to make it happen."