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AIDS-related deaths at lowest level since 2005

AIDS-related deaths are down 21 percent from their peak in 2005, according to a report released today by UNAIDS, the joint United Nations program on HIV and AIDS.

Sidibe aids 2011 11 21Enlarge
Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, speaks before a United Nations Security Council meeting on the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on international peace and security at UN headquarters in New York on June 7, 2011. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

AIDS-related deaths are down 21 percent from their peak in 2005, according to a report released today by UNAIDS, the joint United Nations program on HIV and AIDS. That’s the lowest level since 2005, the BBC reported. The number of new HIV infections is also down 21 percent from its peak in 1997.

"We have seen a massive scale up in access to HIV treatment which has had a dramatic effect on the lives of people everywhere,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe told BBC News.

About half of people eligible for treatment with antiretroviral drugs, or ARVs, globally are now receiving them, BBC News reported.

According to the Los Angeles Times:

Three African countries, Botswana, Nambia and Rwanda, achieved universal access, defined by UNAIDS as access for 80 percent or more of those eligible. Four African countries, Kenya, Ethiopia, Swaziland and Zambia, had coverage for between 60 percent and 80 percent of infected people.

Expanded access to ARVs has also decreased transmission, the LA Times reported.

"In addition to improving quality of life and reducing AIDS-related deaths, antiretroviral treatment is now recognized as preventing HIV transmission, by reducing viral load and hence the potential for transmission," the UNAIDS report said, according to the LA Times. "Coupling treatment access with combination prevention options is pushing new HIV infections down to record levels.”

Officials from the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders warned that the financial crisis threatens such progress and called for increased funding to combat AIDS and HIV to sustain the momentum, USA Today reported. Donor funding for AIDS prevention decreased from $7.6 billion in 2009 to $6.9 billion in 2010, Doctors Without Borders reported, according to the LA Times.

"Just at the moment when we know how to manage HIV, we're hitting the brakes," Sharonann Lynch, an HIV policy adviser at Doctors Without Borders, told USA Today. "Without more investment, we'll be squandering the best chance we have of getting ahead of the new wave of infections."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/111121/aids-hiv-unaids-report-michel-sidibe