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U.N. Secretary-General Ban Renews Goal To Reverse Spread of HIV by 2015

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday at a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly to review the body's response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic said he believes it is possible to halt and reverse the spread of the disease by 2015, despite the increasing number of cases worldwide.

U.N. member countries last year renewed pledges and set new targets to provide universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care services by 2010. In addition, one of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals calls for stopping and reversing the spread of HIV by 2015.

Ban at the meeting said that ensuring access to treatment, prevention, care and support services is "critical" to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS. Ban added that fighting the disease worldwide will remain a U.N. priority and that he will work to ensure funding for prevention and treatment services.

Ban also said providing treatment for diseases associated with HIV, such as tuberculosis, and researching vaccines and microbicides are necessary to reduce the spread of the virus. Ban added that meeting U.N. targets "means mustering the political will to address the factors that drive the epidemic -- including gender inequality, stigma and discrimination".

According to a report submitted by Ban to the general assembly on Monday, progress has been made in moving toward universal access to antiretroviral drugs and in expanding care and prevention services. The report noted that despite progress, the number of HIV-positive people has increased in every region of the world since 2005, Xinhuanet reports.

About two million HIV-positive people worldwide, or 28% of the 7.1 million people in need, had access to antiretrovirals in 2006, up from 700,000 in 2005, according to the report. According to U.N. estimates, $18 billion will be needed in 2007 and $22 billion will be needed in 2008 to meet the U.N. goal of providing universal access to prevention and treatmen t services in low- and middle-income countries.

U.N. General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa at the meeting said that an increasing number of women are affected by HIV/AIDS worldwide, adding that the disease has a destructive impact on their lives. "Many women would rather not get the treatment they need to save their lives or stop their children from contracting HIV/AIDS because they do not want, or do not know how, to cope with the fear and stigma of HIV/AIDS," she said.


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