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AIDS Remains Leading Cause of Death in Africa, According to UN

6800 New Infections Each Day, says New Report

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today the UN issued an updated estimate of the extent of HIV infection around the globe, based mainly on improved methods of determining the scope of the disease.

New figures released today by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization have revised the estimated number of people living with HIV to 33.2 million. This is about 16% less than what was previously thought. Each day there are about 6800 new infections and 5700 deaths due to AIDS, according to the report, less than what was previously estimated.

"It is good news that the extent of infection is somewhat less than we thought, especially in India and some parts of Africa," said Dr. Paul Zeitz, Executive Director of the Global AIDS Alliance.

"However, we must not be complacent about the AIDS crisis," he noted. "There is still a huge unmet need for basic HIV/AIDS services, including for orphaned children. Today's report does not change the fact that only a tiny fraction of HIV positive pregnant women are getting the treatment they need to avoid passing the virus to their newborns and to stay alive to raise them," he noted.

Some of the reduction is also due to increased access to prevention and treatment programs in affected countries. "The report shows that prevention and treatment programs are succeeding and therefore deserve more, not less, financial support," Zeitz said.

In September, 2007 the UN stated there is currently an $8 billion shortfall in resources needed to fight AIDS, including for basic prevention, treatment and care for orphaned children. The UN also said that while $42 billion would be needed to keep the G8 leaders' promise of universal by 2010, only $15.4 billion was projected to be available by that year.

Today the UN said this estimate of the resources needed by 2010 took into account the new data on the extent of the epidemic, but the figures would need to be revised downward by about 5% to fully reflect the new information. That would mean that the estimate of a need for $42 billion by 2010 would need to be changed to $40 billion.

"We are talking about a small reduction in the resource need for 2010," Zeitz said. "Today's report is a welcome correction, but it does not mean previous calls for funding or for faster action were 'alarmist.' The epicenter of this crisis is still in Africa, and the lives of people there matter. We still need to see effective programs get the funding they need to stop the dying."

"These reductions in estimates cannot lower our commitment and our focus to overcome this preventable and treatable disease," said Rev. Dr Hielke Wolters, director of Justice, Diakonia and Responsibility for Creation for the World Council of Churches, in a statement today from the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance.

SOURCE Global AIDS Alliance
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