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Over 33M People Worldwide Living With HIV/AIDS, UNAIDS/WHO Report Finds

An estimated 33.4 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS, according to a report released Tuesday in Shanghai by the WHO and UNAIDS that shows “more people are living longer due to the availability of drugs,” Reuters/Washington Post reports (Rujun/Chan, 11/24).  

The 2009 AIDS epidemic update “shows there has been a significant drop in the number of new HIV infections,” suggesting that “HIV prevention programmes have had a significant impact,” the BBC reports. “Anti-retroviral therapy has also made a significant impact in preventing new infections in children as more HIV-positive mothers gain access to treatment preventing them from transmitting the virus to their children,” the BBC writes (11/24).

“The good news is that we have evidence that the declines we are seeing are due, at least in part, to HIV prevention,” said Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS said in a UNAIDS press release. “However, the findings also show that prevention programming is often off the mark and that if we do a better job of getting resources and programmes to where they will make most impact, quicker progress can be made and more lives saved,” he said. According the release, 2.7 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2008 – down 17% over the last eight years – and two million people died of AIDS-related illnesses (11/24).

“Officials say the global epidemic probably peaked in 1996 and that the disease looks stable in most regions, except for Africa,” the Associated Press/Wall Street Journal reports (Cheng, 11/24). According to the report, sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 71 percent of all new HIV infections in 2008.

“International and national investment in HIV treatment scale-up have yielded concrete and measurable results,” WHO Director General Margaret Chan said in the UNAIDS release. “We cannot let this momentum wane. Now is the time to redouble our efforts, and save many more lives” (11/24).

Reuters also features a factbox on the UNAIDS report (Cutler, 11/24).