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Drop In AIDS-Related Deaths In Eastern, Southern Africa Due To Improved Treatment Access, UNAIDS Report Says

“A 10-fold increase in access to life-prolonging drugs contributed to a 38 percent drop in the number of people dying from AIDS-related causes in eastern and southern Africa between 2005 and 2011, the United Nations said on Tuesday,” Thomson Reuters Foundation reports. In a new UNAIDS report (.pdf), titled “Getting to Zero: the HIV epidemic in the eastern and southern Africa,” the agency said “[t]he number of [AIDS-related] deaths fell from 1.3 million to 800,000 per year” and “[t]he number of people taking antiretroviral therapy soared from 625,000 to 6.3 million between 2005 and 2012,” according to the news service (Migiro, 7/30). “The report … highlights that the number of new HIV infections among children were reduced by half from 2001 to 2011 and new infections among adults aged 15-49 reduced by around a third,” a UNAIDS press release states. The rate of new HIV infections among adults declined “by more than 50 percent in seven countries — Botswana, Ethiopia, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda, Zambia and Zimbabwe,” according to the press release (7/30).

However, “challenges remain,” VOA News writes. “HIV prevalence among young women was 4.5 percent in 2011 — more than twice the rate among young men,” the news service notes, adding, “[O]fficials acknowledged that convincing young people to take precautions against HIV [also] remains a major challenge.” Noting successes in areas such as preventing mother-to-child transmission, South African Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said “his nation’s health system is struggling to accommodate its various burdens, and needs to come up with a novel solution,” the news service notes. “When you add the number of people who need treatment from HIV/AIDS, those who need treatment from [tuberculosis (TB)] and the non-communicable diseases, our health facilities are going to be extremely overstretched,” he said, adding, “So that tells us that together with all the development partners, we need to start planning and innovate new methods,” VOA writes (Powell, 7/30). “Finally, there was an estimated shortfall of $7 billion if all countries were to scale up to meet the HIV challenge,” Health-e News reports (Cullinan, 7/31).