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AIDS deaths down by a third in past decade, says UN

AIDS-related deaths and the number of new HIV infections have fallen by more than a third in the past decade, a UN report showed on Wednesday, giving hope to the goal that the disease will be under control by 2030 and eventually eradicated.
In a review of the pandemic released before the 20th International AIDS Conference in Australia next week, the United Nations agency said AIDS-related deaths had dropped to 1.5 million in 2013 from 1.7 million the previous year.
This was the sharpest annual decline since the peak in 2004 and 2005, and marked a 35-percent drop from the 2.4 million deaths seen in both those years.
Alongside the falling death toll, new infections declined to 2.1 million last year, a 38-percent fall compared with the 3.4 million people infected in 2001.
Though the battle is far from over with 35 million people still living with HIV worldwide, the global effort to beat the pandemic has made huge strides, the head of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé said.
“The AIDS epidemic can be ended in every region, every country, in every location, in every population and every community,” he said.
Africa hardest hit

Globally, the report said, 35 million people were living with the virus in 2013, up from 34.6 million the previous year.
Of those, “19 million do not know their HIV-positive status”, said Sidibé.
Africa remains the hardest-hit continent, accounting for 1.1 million deaths in 2013, 1.5 million new infections, and 24.7 million people living with HIV.
Worldwide, South Africa remained the worst-hit country, followed by Nigeria.
UNAIDS noted that in sub-Saharan Africa, access to condoms remained a major problem, with only eight available per year for each sexually active person.
In Asia, concerns focus on India and Indonesia – infections in the latter have jumped by 48 percent since 2005.
More access to treatment

Efforts to increase the number of people getting access to life-saving anti-retroviral drugs have advanced quickly, with 12.9 million now receiving treatment compared with 5.2 million in 2009, UNAIDS said.
While the hike is impressive, it falls short of a UN target announced two years ago to reach 15 million people by 2015.
The international community has expressed repeated concern about vulnerable groups who can miss out on treatment in societies where they are marginalised.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently called for greater efforts to treat gay men, transgender people, prisoners, people who inject drugs and sex workers, who together account for about half of all new HIV infections worldwide.
“Ensuring that no one is left behind means closing the gap between people who can get services and people who can’t, the people who are protected and the people who are punished,” Sidibé said.
Despite huge progress in funding for the battle against AIDS – which rose from $3.8 billion in 2002 to $19.1 billion in 2013 – the UN is still short of its target of $22-24 billion by 2015.
It says the investment will pay huge dividends, given that fewer deaths and less sickness takes a burden off the healthcare system, and enables HIV-positive people to work and contribute to the economy for longer.
Since the epidemic began in the 1980’s, AIDS has killed around 39 million of the 78 million people it has affected.

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