Check AIDS-related Deaths

Dramatic progress in science, political leadership, and results indicate that 2011 was a “game changing” year for the international AIDS response, and much progress has been made in 2011 to check AIDS-related deaths since 1997, the peak of the epidemic, a new report released by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said on Monday.

“The Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic 2011” found that new infections were reduced by 21 percent since 1997, and deaths from AIDS-related illnesses decreased by 21 percent since 2005, according to the report.

Furthermore, 47 percent (6.6 million) of the estimated 14.2 million people eligible for antiretroviral therapy treatment in low- and middle-income countries were accessing treatment, in increase of 1.35 million people since 2009.

The report also found early signs that HIV treatment is having an impact on reducing the number of new HIV infections. As treatment reduces the viral load of a person living HIV to almost undetectable levels, it also reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to an uninfected partner, according to the report. Studies also show that treatment can be up to 96 percent effective in preventing HIV transmission among couples.

Eleven countries, including many Sub-Saharan African countries, reached “close to universal access” for AIDS treatment, which is determined to be 80 percent access, in 2011.

Botswana made the most dramatic progress in scaling up access to treatment, the report said. While sexual patterns remained relatively stable in the country since 2000, access to treatment increased from less than 5 percent in 2000 to more than 80 percent in 2011.

Despite progress, however, the report does note that 2011 marks an unprecedented high the number of people infected with HIV worldwide.

Globally, an estimated 34 million people are currently living with the infection. Approximately 2.7 million got infected with the virus in 2010, and as many as 1.8 million people died of AIDS- related illnesses in 2010.

Yet the report also notes estimates that as many as 2.5 million deaths are estimated to have been averted in low- and middle- income countries due to increased access to HIV treatment since 1995.

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