News / Africa

UNAIDS: Sharp Drop in New Infections

A woman is given a free HIV/AIDS test in Lira, northern Uganda, September 9, 2007.
A woman is given a free HIV/AIDS test in Lira, northern Uganda, September 9, 2007.
Joe DeCapua
The latest Global Report on HIV/AIDS says the number of new infections continues to fall, with the sharpest declines in the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa.

The UNAIDS report says overall there are about 34 million people living with the disease, nearly 70 percent of them in sub-Saharan Africa. The region remains the “most severely affected with nearly one in twenty adults living with HIV.” The next hardest hit regions are the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

UNAIDS also says there’s “cause for concern” over the number of newly infected people in the Middle East and North Africa. The MENA region traditionally has had very low numbers of HIV infections. But the report says there’s a trend upward. New infections have increased 35 percent since 2001.

On the positive side, the number of new infections worldwide has fallen sharply since 2001 to about two and a half million people per year.

“Today we are reporting a more than 50 percent drop in new infections across 25 countries since 2001. Thirteen of these countries are in sub-Saharan Africa, the region that’s by far the most affected by HIV – a 73 percent reduction in Malawi – and Botswana, a 71 percent drop. I mean these are very, very impressive figures,” said Bernhard Schwartlander, UNAIDS’ director of evidence, innovation and policy.

South Africa – the country with the largest number of infections – has shown a 41 percent reduction since 2001. At the same time, treatment in South Africa was scaled up by 75 percent over the last two years.

“We are really seeing a quickening in the pace of progress over the past two years. We have achieved in the past two years what took us before a whole decade. We have seen in the past two years a 60 percent increase in the number of people accessing life-saving treatment. Five countries in the region have achieved more than 80 percent coverage of HIV treatment. That is Botswana, Namibia, Rwanda, Swaziland and Zambia,” he said.

Outside of sub-Saharan Africa, UNAIDS says China has scaled up treatment by 50 percent over the past year.

Schwartlander also said great progress has been shown regarding newborns.

“In the last two years, half of all the reductions in HIV infections have been among children. In six countries – Burundi, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Togo and Zambia – the number of children newly infected with HIV has fallen at least 40 percent in the past two years,” he said.

Countries that had infection rates greater than 25 percent between 2001 and 2011 include Bangladesh, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Philippines, Republic of Moldova and Sri Lanka.

About 1.7 million people died of AIDS-related causes in 2011, showing a continued decline. The downward trend began in the mid-2000s with the increased availability of antiretroviral drugs in developing countries.

HIV/AIDS is primarily a sexually transmitted disease. Recent studies have shown that antiretroviral drug use can help prevent initial infections, and there’s very promising research regarding microbicide gels. Nevertheless, UNAIDS says that “the current pace of progress is insufficient to reach the global goal of halving sexual transmission by 2015.”

The report describes condom use as a “critical element of combination prevention.” However, it says surveys indicate declines of condom use in Uganda, Benin, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast. Knowledge of condom use, especially among young women, remains low in several countries with high infection rates.

Male circumcision has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection. However, UNAIDS says there’s been limited progress in scaling up voluntary medical male circumcision.

Mitchell Warren, head of the advocacy group AVAC, reacted to the report, and said, “It’s a great report and it’s great news on the one hand. I think that it’s a question of where do we go next?”

Warren said the 50 percent reduction in new infections must be taken in perspective.

“While that 50 percent decline is terrific, it’s over a decade. All this talk about ending the epidemic or about an AIDS-free generation – we need to pick up the pace. If we’re really serious about achieving the end of the epidemic, getting a 50 percent reduction over a decade, while good news, is not the pace we need to be on to end the epidemic,” he said.

The head of AVAC said what now takes two years to achieve needs to be accomplished in one year.

You May Like

Video Obama: Action on Climate Change 'Economic, Security Imperative'

President spoke to reporters on sidelines of UN Climate Summit outside Paris, where leaders are working to agree on binding measures

IMF Bets on China’s Resolve to Reform

IMF announcement already raising questions about just how much Beijing is committed to such reforms

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs