U.N. Report: World Is Losing AIDS Fight

Asia, Africa Need More Resources to Combat Rising Cases

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July 6, 2004 -- The numbers are staggering: Five million people became infected with HIV last year, more people than any previous year. Nearly 38 million adults and children are living with HIV worldwide. While Africa continues to be hit hard, Asia has the fastest-growing new epidemic.

Those figures were unveiled today in a new report from UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. The report was released in advance of the 15th International AIDS Conference to be held July 11 to 16 in Bangkok, Thailand.

Some $12 billion will be needed by 2005 to effectively fight AIDS in developing countries -- but current annual spending is less than half that, the report states. By 2007, an estimated $20 billion will be needed.

"Despite increased funding, political commitment, and progress in expanding access to HIV treatment over the past two years, the AIDS epidemic continues to outpace the global response," says Peter Piot, MD, PhD, UNAIDS executive director, in a news release.

Since 2002, more than 9 million people have become infected and 6 million have died of AIDS, he says.

"These numbers demonstrate the enormity of the challenge in both preventing millions of infections and treating those living with HIV," says Piot.

Also among the 2004 HIV/AIDS facts and figures:

  • The fastest-growing epidemic is in Asia, with 1.1 million new infections in 2003 alone -- the most in a single year to date in Asia, which has 60% of the world's population.
  • 70% of the HIV-infected world population lives in Africa, yet Africa has only 10% of the world's population. If current infection rates continue -- without access to treatment -- 60% of today's 15-year-olds in Africa will not reach their 60th birthday.
  • An estimated 15 million children under age 18 worldwide have lost one or both parents to AIDS -- 12 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Of the 10 million young people living with HIV worldwide, 6 million live in sub-Saharan Africa -- 75% of whom are young women.

HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment has not been adequate, says Piot.

The data:

  • Prevention programs reach fewer than one in five people who need them. Comprehensive efforts could prevent 29 million of the 45 million new infections projected by 2010.
  • The current supply of condoms is 40% short of what is needed. By 2015, an estimated 19 billion condoms will be needed to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
  • Five million to 6 million people need HIV treatment in low-to-middle income countries -- yet only 7% (400,000 people) had access at the end of 2003.

"There is no time to misread the signals, with Asia facing life and death choices in preventing a full-blown [HIV/AIDS] catastrophe in the region," says Piot. "Equally alarming, infections in Africa continue to increase and people are dying in large numbers."

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SOURCES: UNAIDS news release. UNAIDS: "Around the World: 2004 Facts and Figures."

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