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Africa not Faring Well on World AIDS Day, UN Official Said

Friday is World AIDS Day. It was established in 1988 by the World Health Organization to focus global attention on the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The theme for this year’s observance is “Stop AIDS, Keep the Promise.” It is estimated that more than 60 percent of all people living with HIV/AIDS live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Michael Sidibe is head of country and regional support for the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS.

He said while there has been some progress, Africa is not faring well on this World AIDS Day.

“Let us be very clear. We are not winning the war. What is happening is year after year we are seeing an increase in new infections. This year we had more than two point nine million new infections in Africa alone, which is representing probably 60 to 70 percent of all new infections worldwide. But what is really alarming is that 50 percent of those new infections is occurring among young people between 15 years old to 24 years old,” he said.

Sidibe also said other challenge in the fight against AIDS is the increasing death rate among HIV patients. He also said AIDS is affecting more women and girls. But Sidibe said there has been some progress in selected African countries.

“I’m just saying that in aggregate sense, yes, we are seeing an increase in the number of new infections on the continent. But we have an area of good news, for example, in Kenya, in Burundi, in Addis Ababa. I can say even in Zimbabwe where we have a decline among the young people, particularly in the big cities. But still very localized progress, Sidibe said.

He said while there has been some progress in terms of gaining access to treatment, much more needs to be done.

“I think a lot of progress has been made in terms of putting under treatment. Just three four years ago we were having only 50 thousand people. Today we are almost having almost one million people in treatment. But we are talking about a continent with 26 to 27 million infected. We are talking about a continent where you have almost five million people in need of urgent access to treatment. So I think it’s very important to quicken the pace of action,” he said.

Sidibe said the international community must work hard to make the dream of access to universal treatment a reality by increasing the level HIV/AIDS spending.

“We know that just 10 years ago we were having only 300 million dollars. We know that we have 80 billion dollars today. But we know that the gap in 2007 will be six billion dollars,” Sidibe said.

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