BERLIN / GENEVA, 21 November 2011 - A new report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV / AIDS (UNAIDS), released today shows that 2011 was a game changing year for the AIDS response with unprecedented progress in science, political leadership and results.
The report also shows that new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths have fallen to the lowest levels since the peak of the epidemic.
New HIV infections were reduced by 21% since 1997, and deaths from AIDS-related illnesses decreased by 21% since 2005.
“Even in a very difficult financial crisis, countries are delivering results in the AIDS response,” said Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS.
“We have seen a massive scale up in access to HIV treatment which has head a dramatic effect on the lives of people everywhere.”
According to UNAIDS and WHO estimates, 47% (6.6 million) of the estimated 14.2 million people eligible for treatment in low and middle-income countries were accessing lifesaving antiretroviral therapy in 2010, an increase of 1.35 million since 2009.
The 2011 UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report also highlights that there are early signs that HIV treatment is having a significant impact on reducing the number of new HIV infections.
Infection rates have dropped in most countries in the Asia Pacific region including PNG and increasing HIV prevention coverage is resulting in safer sexual behaviours.
There are more people than ever before receiving treatment and this is significant because of the recent evidence that shows the powerful effect of HIV treatment on reducing transmission.
However, sixty percent of people eligible for antiretroviral treatment in the Asia Pacific region still do not receive it and Papua New Guinea continues to have frequent stock outs of crucial life-saving drugs reducing the impact that treatment could be having on the country’s epidemic.
Globally around 2.5 million deaths are estimated to have been averted in low and middle income countries like PNG due to increased access to HIV treatment since 1995.
New HIV infections have been significantly reduced or have stabilized in most parts of the world, however, the number of new HIV infections continues to rise in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Pacific, the Middle-East and North Africa.
Declines in new HIV infections are also being spurred by changes in sexual behavior, particularly in young people, as people reduce their numbers of sexual partners, increase condom use and are waiting longer before becoming sexually active.
HIV prevalence declined among young people in at least 21 of 24 countries with national HIV prevalence of 1% or higher.
The Report highlights that an increase in uptake of male circumcision is also starting to contribute to declines in new HIV infections.
Studies show that 2000 new HIV infections were averted amongst men in Kenya’s Nyanza province after scale up of voluntary male circumcision in clinical conditions (rather than traditional circumcision).
Estimates in the report highlight that circumcising 20 million more men across Eastern and Southern Africa would avert around 3.4 million new HIV infections by 2015.
Around 400,000 new HIV infections in children were estimated to have been averted since 1995 due to increased access to effective antiretroviral regimens in low- and middle-income countries by 2010, almost half (48%) of all pregnant women living with HIV were able to access effective regiments to prevent their child from becoming infected with the virus.
UNAIDS has mapped a new framework for AIDS investments which are focused on high-impact, evidence-based, high-value strategies.
“The investment framework is community driven, not commodity driven. It puts people at the centre of the approach, not the virus,” said Mr Sidibe.
This new strategic approach to investments would achieve extraordinary results; at least 12.2 million new HIV infections would be averted, including 1.9 million among children between 2011 and 2020; and 7.4 million AIDS-related deaths would be averted between 2011 and 2020.
The framework is based on six essential programme activities: focused interventions for key populations at higher risk (particularly sex workers and their clients, and men who have sex with men); prevention of new HIV infections in children; behavior change programmes; condom promotion and distribution; treatment, care and support for people living with HIV; and voluntary medical male circumcision in countries with high HIV prevalence.
For the framework to be effective, programme activities must recognize critical enablers, such as reducing stigma, respect for human rights, creating a protective legal environment, and capacity building for community based organisations, which are curcial to overcoming the barriers to successful programme outcomes.
To rapidly reduce new HIV infections and to save lives, the 2011 UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report underscores that shared responsibility is needed.