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Despite Gains, HIV/AIDS Remains Public-Health Priority, UNAIDS, WHO Say

News outlets continued to examine the 2009 AIDS epidemic update released Tuesday by the WHO and UNAIDS:

“The U.N. report said ‘AIDS continues to be a major public-health priority’ and called for more funds to support efforts to curb the epidemic and to distribute lifesaving drugs,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “The U.N. report also suggested that health authorities need to focus resources on those most at risk” (Fairclough, 11/25).

Los Angeles Times: “About 4 million people were receiving AIDS drugs at the end of 2008, compared with 3 million the previous year. Nonetheless, an additional ’5 million people need treatment and are not receiving it,’ Dr. Teguest Guerma, acting director of the WHO’s HIV/AIDS department, said at a Tuesday news conference. She said that about 2.9 million lives had been saved so far by increased access to the drugs as a result of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and other international assistance programs” (Maugh, 11/25).

VOA News examines the U.S. contributions towards the global fight against HIV/AIDS. The article includes comments by Anthony Fauci, of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Michele Moloney-Kitts, assistant coordinator in the office of the global AIDS coordinator.  According to Fauci, the National Institutes of Health have “spent about $42 billion from 1982 through fiscal year 2009 on HIV/AIDS research,” funding Fauci credited to having helped improve the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS, the news service writes.

“Michele Moloney-Kitts … said the U.S. government to date has provided about $25 billion, making it the largest donor in the global fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.” The article also includes Moloney-Kitts’ comments about the future of PEPFAR under the Obama administration (Butty, 11/24).

“The update cautions that prevention programs often fail to target the populations that are most at risk,” Science’s “ScienceInsider” blog reports. “Specifically, stigma and local laws prevent many countries from tailoring prevention outreach to highly vulnerable groups like injecting drug users, men who have sex with men, commercial sex workers, and longterm couples in which only one partner is infected. And the sobering bottom line is that five people continue to be infected for every two who start treatment with anti-HIV drugs” (Cohen, 11/24).

Epidemics In Russia, Eastern Europe, China

RIA Novosti examines the findings of the report that “[o]ver 1% of Russian residents are HIV-positive,” with the primary route of transmission being injecting drug use. “According to the report, about 37% of Russia’s estimated 1.8 million drug users are HIV-infected. Young people account for a considerable number of infections among injecting drug users in the region,” the news service writes (11/25).

KyivPost: “‘With an adult HIV prevalence of 1.6%, Ukraine has the highest prevalence in all of Europe,’ UNAIDS and WHO experts said.” The report also found “the estimated number of adults and children living with HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia has grown by 66% to 1.5 million since 2001,” according to the newspaper (11/25).

The Associated Press examines the report’s findings that HIV “is now spreading fastest in China through heterosexual sex, a trend demanding new strategies to stave off a rebound in the epidemic after years of progress in containing it…” UNAIDS head Michel Sidibe said, “We are seeing a shift in the nature of the epidemic. … We need to ensure resource allocation is responding to that change.”

The article includes details about how “[t]he government remains sensitive about [HIV/AIDS]” and stories of patients living with HIV/AIDS seeking additional support from the government (Kurtenbach, 11/25).

Xinhua/People’s Daily Online also reports on the Chinese health minister’s response to the UNAIDS report and highlights the efforts of the Chinese government to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in the country (11/24). In a UNAIDS press release that lauded China’s progress on HIV/AIDS Sibide’s said, “The world eagerly anticipates China’s enhanced role in global governance – and its leadership in the global response to AIDS” (11/24).