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Promising AIDS Figures Belie Complacency and Lack of Resources, says ICASO Leader

The head of the International Council of AIDS Service Organizations (ICASO) says there were no big surprises in the latest UNAIDS report. Richard Burzynski says, "I think we've been starting to hear some of this information. I think what's complex when we're looking at some of the information they're bringing…there are three key areas. One is there has been an increase in prevention and treatment services with some measurable results. But clearly it's not going to be even close to sufficient to meet universal access targets that were set by the G8 and other governments for 2010.

"The second key is that the number of people living with HIV and AIDS is stable and/or falling in some countries. But I think this is the false information or the false interpretation of that information. People might be lulled into thinking that somehow the epidemic's gone away. But it has not. In fact, within certain populations it's growing, but aggregate totals in some countries are not growing. And so that's somewhat good news, but the stability of all this I think has to be examined really, really carefully and closely," she says.

Despite evidence of stability, Burzynski is looking at "long-term responses grounded in evidence and human rights." He warns of complacency or false security about the epidemic. "We will see spikes. We will see communities remaining without access. And we'll see government promises be pushed to the wayside. And this is something all advocates and activists around the world need to be very cognizant about. But it's far from over," he says.

Burzynski says many countries that appear to be making overall progress actually have concentrated epidemics."HIV rates, for instance, among men who have sex with men are four to five times higher than the general population…. These general figures do not necessarily illustrate or point to the picture of how the epidemic is evolving inside of a country or inside of a city within particular populations. And this is really troublesome," he says.

He adds, "One you start peeling away at the layers of the onion, you start to recognize that in fact the epidemic or the pandemic is raging within specific and particular communities unabated and without the kind of effort required effort to make sure these populations receive services, be they prevention, be they treatment. And that criminalization does not work."