The United Nations says the global epidemic of HIV/AIDS is increasing at a slower rate than in previous years. A U.N. report says AIDS claimed the lives of 2.8 million people and more than four million others were newly infected with the virus last year.
It has been 25 years since the first case of HIV/AIDS was recognized. Since then, the United Nations says 65 million people have been infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and more than 25 million people have died from the disease.
The U.N. report says sub-Saharan Africa remains the most seriously affected region in the world. The manager of Epidemic and Impact Monitoring at UNAIDS, Peter Ghys, says 24.5 million people, or two-thirds of all people living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa.
"Also, in the southernmost part of Africa, there is no decrease in prevalence. In fact, there are several countries that are still documenting high prevalence in their most recent round of surveillance compared to earlier rounds," he said. "These countries include South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique."
The report finds the epidemic is continuing to expand in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. It says Russia has the largest AIDS epidemic in Europe, followed by Ukraine. It says unsafe drug injecting practices are mainly fueling the epidemic.
Latest estimates show more than eight million people are living with HIV in Asia, more than two-thirds of them in India. But, the report says HIV prevalence is increasing in other countries, including China, Indonesia and Vietnam.
But Ghys says there also is some good news. The report finds HIV infections have dropped in Kenya, Zimbabwe, and in urban parts of Burkina Faso and Haiti. There also are declining trends in four Indian States, including Tamil Nadu. He says declines in HIV prevalence also are continuing in Cambodia, Thailand and Uganda.
"These declines and prevalence have been associated with favorable changes in behavior," he added. "And, these include reduction in partners, increasing condom use and also delayed sexual debut."
The report says progress has been made during the past few years in prevention and treatment programs. Largely as a result of increased funding, it says, 1.3 million people in low and middle income countries have access to anti-retroviral therapy and the number of people using HIV testing and counseling services has quadrupled in the past five years.