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UN Reports Big Progress in Fight Against AIDS


An upbeat United Nations agency reports significant progress over the past two years in preventing HIV infections, but says more money will be required, especially in the battle against AIDS. From New York, VOA's intern Maha Saad has the story.

A top official of a joint U.N. project to prevent the spread of HIV, Peter Piot, says HIV prevention efforts that target drug users, gay men, and sex workers in heavily affected countries have tripled. He also says AIDS related deaths are on the decline.

"The overall finding of the report is that we have made enormous progress, that there are real results," said Peter Piot. "We have achieved more in the fight against AIDS in the last two years than the preceding 20 years."

The report prepared by UNAIDS and its co-sponsoring U.N. agencies is compiled every two years and monitors the global response to AIDS. The study shows at least 33 million people in the world are living with HIV and there are nearly 7,500 new infections each day.

Piot says treatment is more accessible with at least three million people receiving anti-retroviral treatment. Also, 33 percent of pregnant women are treated with drugs to prevent mother-to-child transmission, resulting in a decrease of infections among children from 410,000 to 370,000.

Young people are also changing their behavior. The report shows they increasingly delay sexual intercourse and practice safer sex.

Still, Thoraya Obaid, the director of the U.N. Population Fund, says 45 percent of new adult infections occurred among young people between the ages of 15 and 24 last year.

"The young people still remain to be very vulnerable and the vulnerability is because many young people still lack accurate and comprehensive information on how to protect themselves from infection," said Thoraya Obaid.

Obaid and Piot note the progress is significant, but say financing the fight against HIV/AIDS will have to be increased in the next few years.

"The truth is that without substantive increase in funding, particularly for treatment, but also for some prevention efforts, the epidemic will not go away," he said.

More than 100 countries are trying to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010.