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Global War Against AIDS May Fail Target, Warns UN

The AIDS epidemic has outpaced global mobilisation against the disease in the last five years, frustrating efforts to halt the spread of the virus// , the UN says in advance of a review conference.

A dozen heads of state and more than 100 government ministers are scheduled to meet Wednesday-Friday at UN headquarters to assess results based on a five-year plan issued by the UN General Assembly to try to reverse the epidemic by 2010.

Unless the global campaign against AIDS becomes "substantially stronger, more strategic and better coordinated", it will fail the 2010 target, according to a UN study on the five-year plan.

The study findings were that greater resources are needed to scale up activities against acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which was first identified 25 years ago.

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS has been spreading mostly through unprotected sex or sharing of needles among drug addicts.

AIDS has killed an estimated 25 million people in 25 years, while another 40 million people are currently infected. Half of those living with HIV are women, 60 percent of them in Africa. Over half of new infected people are under age 25.

There are 15 million orphans whose parents were lost to the epidemic.

Every day around the world, AIDS kills 8,000 people, and another 14,000 people become infected, the UN said.

Despite intensified efforts to prevent infection and treat AIDS patients, the epidemic has struck more people than medical infrastructures can serve, the study said.

There were more infections and more AIDS deaths in 2005 than ever before, the study says. Only about one in five patients in poor and middle-income countries who need anti-retroviral drugs are getting them, while the number of people requiring treatment has increased.

A global five-year programme launched by the World Health Organization failed to m eet its target of providing antiretroviral drugs to three million AIDS patients by the end of 2005. Only 1.3 million people received the treatment.

"In many countries, progress in scaling up proven HIV prevention methods appears to have stalled," the report concludes.

Key prevention services - aimed at changing sexual behaviors among those most vulnerable to HIV and preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission - have reached fewer than 10 percent of at-risk population.

The UN says that after 25 years of struggling against the epidemic, the world stands at a crossroads. Despite the gloomy assessment on the global state of AIDS, some progress has been made.

Governments have adopted strong national policies to fight AIDS and provide wider access to treatment and prevention, and can tap into more resources. The world now spends about $8.2 billion a year in programmes against AIDS, but the full need would be $10 billion, the UN says.

The study, compiled from data supplied by governments on their respective anti-AIDS policies, shows that some countries were on course to reverse AIDS, while many others are falling far behind.

The great differences among countries and regions in implementing the five-year plan should force policymakers to focus on the place that are failing.

The study says that 90 percent of countries that provided data now have a strong foundation for effective anti-AIDS programmes. In about 40 countries, heads of government or their deputies lead the national programmes.

--Edited IANS
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