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An end to AIDS? United Nations says it's feasible

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 21st, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

AIDS/HIV was at one time a certain death sentence. Usually sexually transmitted, AIDS guaranteed a slow, painful death for all those who contracted it. Now, with the introduction of protease inhibitors, AIDS patients can now pursue a life under medication. Now, the United Nations says that an end to AIDS/HIV infections is now feasible.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Chiefly due to better access to drugs that can both treat and prevent the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes the disease, AIDS may soon become a thing of the past.

The U.N. AIDS program said in its annual report that the "global community has embarked on an historic quest to lay the foundation for the eventual end of the AIDS epidemic. This effort is more than merely visionary. It is entirely feasible," UNAIDS said.

Some 34 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2011, the report said, with deaths from AIDS falling to 1.7 million in 2011, down from a peak of 2.3 million in 2005 and from 1.8 million in 2010.

The number of people newly infected with HIV, which can be transmitted via blood and by semen during sex, is also falling worldwide. At 2.5 million, the number of new infections in 2011 was 20 percent lower than in 2001 - a substantial decline.

"Although AIDS remains one of the world's most serious health challenges, global solidarity in the AIDS response during the past decade continues to generate extraordinary health gains," the report said.

"The pace of progress is quickening - what used to take a decade is now being achieved in 24 months," Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS says. "We are scaling up faster and smarter than ever before. It is the proof that with political will and follow through we can reach our shared goals."

Antiretroviral therapy has saved 14 million life-years in poorer countries, including nine million in sub-Saharan Africa, the report said.

Sub-Saharan Africa remains the most severely affected region with almost one in every 20 adults infected, nearly 25 times the rate in Asia, there are also almost five million people with HIV in south, southeast and East Asia combined.

Access to the medication has seen many more human lives being prolonged. Some eight million people were being treated with AIDS drugs by the end of 2011, a 20-fold increase since 2003. The United Nations has set a target to raise that to 15 million people by 2015.

"Scaling up HIV treatment to 15 million people ... is feasible and has the crucial triple benefit of reducing illness, reducing death, and reducing the risk of transmission," Manica Balasegaram of the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Frontiers says.

The pace must be quickened, he said, "so that every month more people are started on life-saving HIV treatment than the month before."

Statistics say that the human race must remain vigilant against the disease. Since 2001, the number of new HIV infections in the Middle East and North Africa was up more than 35 percent from 27,000 to 37,000. Evidence suggests HIV infections in Eastern Europe and Central Asia began increasing in the late 2000s after being relatively stable for several years.

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