World Aids Day””Look How Far We’ve Come

Today is World Aids Day, which marks nearly 20 years since the AIDS virus was first recognized by the U.S. Center for Disease Control. A 2010 Global Report from UNAIDS demonstrates just how far we’ve come since then in preventing, treating, and eradicating the AIDS virus, and offers hope for the future.

A video in the UNAIDS press kit addresses how South Africa, currently the country with the largest infection rate in the world, has managed to “significantly slow down or stabilize the rate of new infections.” UNAIDS workers found that more South Africans are practicing safe sex, and those who already test positive for HIV have a lowered rate of fatality due to better access to treatments.

Reading the Aids Scorecards packet UNAIDS has put together reveals a more complete picture of how efforts to stop HIV infection are progressing:

-Worldwide, new HIV infections have fallen 19% since 1999, the year widely regarded as the zenith of new infections.

-In 33 countries, 22 of which are in sub-Saharan Africa, the global area with the most widespread epidemic, the incidence of new HIV cases fell more than 25% between 2001 and 2009. This is a testament to the education of young people, who are now more aware of how HIV is spread and have more access to condoms and testing centers.

-Unfortunately, the rate of infection increased 25% in 7 countries, 5 of which are in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. UNAIDS says that the prevalence of intravenous drug use in Eastern Europe is the primary cause of new infections there, and prescribes investing in more HIV prevention centers for drug users, which would provide clean needles and education about HIV transmission.

-The rate of newborns maternally infected with HIV dropped from 500,000 in 2001 to 370,000 in 2009, and UNAIDS has declared that eradication of maternally-transmitted HIV is possible and has been made a goal for 2015.

There are a lot of things to be excited about, particularly the turn-around in Sub-Saharan Africa. On that positive note, The Huffington Post reports that last week, a landmark study showed that taking a daily dose of an HIV treatment drug may actually work to prevent users from contracting the virus. Of course, more research will need to be done before the drug (TDF/FTC) is made widely available to uninfected people, but it’s an incredibly encouraging step in the right direction.

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