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AIDS: Why the pandemic outpaces us

As the disease strides ahead with greater determination from obscurity to a global emergency, the question before each nation should be: why is the pandemic// outpacing us, or are countries acting too slowly to address the menace that has killed 25 million people and affected another 40 million worldwide?

In early June, when heads of state gathered in New York for the review meeting to the United Nations General Assembly's Special Session on AIDS (UNGASS), the world watched with expectation. Instead what were mouthed were platitudes without specific action plans and firm commitments.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan asserted that the 2001 UNGASS Declaration of Commitment had "galvanized global action..... and helped guide national decision-making." True. The 2001 UNGASS was a landmark in global efforts to the AIDS crisis because for the first time in the history of the pandemic, the Declaration, signed by leaders from 189 countries, had set out a series of time-bound targets to halt and reverse the disease.

The 2006 Report on Global AIDS Epidemic revealed that the epidemic is slowing down globally and there is a five-time increase in international funding to $8.3 billion in 2005. But the harsh reality, according to the report, is that a condom was used on average in only nine per cent of "risky" sex in the past year. Less than 10 percent of pregnant women with HIV have access to the relatively simple drug treatments that prevent mother-to-child transmission: the main reason why three million children were born with HIV in the past five years. More than 15 million children in the world have been orphaned by AIDS and receive practically no care or support.

India's performance too created dramatic headlines. According to the report, India was leading with 5.7 million HIV infections followed closely by South Africa's 5.5 million. The 'panic and shock' the announcement created was because the world always believed that India
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