UN reports significant progress in fight against AIDS

Geneva (dpa) - The world has made great progress in treating HIV and lowering AIDS fatalities in the past decade, the United Nations reported on Thursday, while calling for vigilance about increasing resistance to anti-viral medication.

The share of people with HIV who have access to medical treatment has risen above 50 per cent for the first time, the UNAIDS agency reported in Geneva.
In addition, the annual number of people who die from AIDS has nearly halved from 1.9 million to 1 million between 2005 and 2016, according to the annual UNAIDS report.
"The scales have tipped," the agency said.
New infections fell to 1.8 million last year, decreasing by 16 per cent over the past five years.
Last year, UNAIDS counted 36.7 million people around the world who were living with the virus that weakens the immune system and can lead to AIDS.
Among them, 53 per cent were able to get medicines that suppress the virus.
Resistance to two of the most widely-used medications has been growing in countries around the world, the World Health Organization said in a separate report.
In six out of 11 countries that are closely monitoring this problem in Africa, Asia and Latin America, the share of patients carrying the drug-resistant virus has climbed above the critical level of 10 per cent.
Patients can develop resistance when they interrupt their life-long medication regime, either because they get tired of taking them, or because anti-retrovirals are simply not available.
"We are worried that we are seeing drug resistance going up in a number of countries," said Gottfried Hirnschall, WHO's HIV programme chief, told a press conference.
More countries should be monitoring resistance levels and they should switch to alternative medications that are still working effectively if they cross the 10-per-cent level, WHO recommended.
Southern and eastern Africa have seen the most dramatic improvements in the fight against HIV, with annual new infections dropping by 29 per cent since 2010, while annual AIDS fatalities plummeted by 42 per cent.
In these two African regions, life expectancy has jumped by 10 years in the past decade.
"As we bring the epidemic under control, health outcomes are improving and nations are becoming stronger," UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said.
Amid the overall positive trend, UNAIDS sounded the alarm over developments in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the only world regions where HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths are on the rise.
An estimated 42 per cent of the infections in these regions are caused by contaminated needles that are used to inject drugs.
Northern Africa and the Middle East are two additional problem areas. Only one out of five people living with HIV in these regions is getting medicine to suppress the virus, UNAIDS said.


Thursday, July 20th 2017
By Albert Otti, dpa

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