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November 30, 2011

UN: World Positioned to Eradicate AIDS

by Peter Cobus

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says the world is finally in a position to eradicate AIDS, but says funding will be critical to future progress in fighting the epidemic.

In a statement to commemorate World AIDS Day on Thursday, Ban urged international donors to meet the estimated $24 billion needed annually to fully fund global AIDS initiatives.

In the United States

In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama announced an additional $50 million to support domestic anti-AIDS programs. He also said the United States has set new targets of helping 1.5 million HIV-positive pregnant women and more than six million people in total over the next two years.

HIV/AIDS Worldwide


Still, many observers worry that global AIDS efforts may face serious cutbacks as governments in Europe and the U.S. try to make up for large budget deficits.

Kumar Chandiramani of the medical-charity group Doctors Without Borders says his organization is worried about a potential lack of funding.

"Funding is always an issue," he said. "It is important also that any cuts normally may not have an impact tomorrow but would have a domino or cascading effect. This is something that we have to be extremely watchful over and which is why, on the international scale, different NGOs, including MSF, are talking about this funding cut."

A U.N. report released Wednesday says domestic and international funding for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, decreased from $15.9 billion in 2009 to $15 billion in 2010, well below the threshold it says is needed for a comprehensive, global response.

The report found the number of new HIV infections has dropped by 15 percent in the past decade. But it also found that new infections increased by 250 percent in the past decade in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

The U.N. estimates that 34 million people around the world are living with HIV.

World AIDS day was first observed in 1988 as a way to increase awareness of the disease and support those affected by it.

This year's theme, which runs until 2015, is "Getting to Zero," which focuses on eliminating new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths, as well as discrimination against people with the disease.

Photo Gallery: World AIDS Day