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More infections and more AIDS deaths in 2005 than ever before
Irish Examiner 01 March 2007

THROUGHOUT the developed, western world, the availability of antiretroviral drugs in recent years has done much to stem the flow of deaths resulting from HIV and AIDS, but the situation in developing countries provides a bleak contrast.

Almost six years ago, 189 members of the United Nations signed the UNGASS Declaration of Commitment on HIV and AIDS, setting various targets which were to be met within five years. However, despite progress in some parts of the world, 2005 saw more new infections (4.9 million) and more AIDS deaths (3.1 million) than ever before.

One of the goals set in the 2001 declaration was that 90% of 15- to 24-year-olds should be aware of ways to prevent HIV transmission, by 2005. Instead, 33% of males in that age category were able to identify preventative measures, and just 20% of females.

A target for a reduction in infections amongst young men and women was set at 25%, but by 2005 the cut was 4.1% among females and 1.6% among males. The hoped-for 50% of antiretroviral therapy coverage for people with advanced HIV infection also fell short, with 20% getting the necessary medication by 2005.

Meanwhile, just 9% of HIV-positive pregnant women were getting antiretroviral prophylaxis, compared with the aim of 80% coverage. There was a 10% reduction in the number of infected infants born to HIV-infected mothers, rather than the 20% mentioned in the 2001 declaration.

To date, more than 65 million people have been infected with HIV, more than 25 million people have died and nearly one in 20 children in sub-Saharan Africa have been orphaned by AIDS. Despite a commitment by African leaders in 2001 to allocate 15% of their national budgets to improving the health sector and addressing the HIV and AIDS epidemic, by 2005 only a third of African countries were spending 10% of their budget or more on health, with some spending less than 5%.

According to the UN, AIDS is now the world’s leading cause of premature death among both men and women aged between 15 and 59. Meanwhile, over half of all new HIV infections are in young people aged 15 to 24 and fewer than 50% of young people are properly educated about HIV. Among the 40 million people currently living with HIV worldwide, more than 95% are in developing countries, the majority in Africa.