The Two-Way
6:36 pm
Mon November 21, 2011

U.N. Says AIDS Epidemic Is Stabilizing

In a report released today, the United Nations say the AIDS epidemic has stabilized. The number of people newly infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has remained the same since 2007.

The AP reports:

"There were 2.7 million new HIV infections last year, approximately the same figure as in the three previous years, said the report from UNAIDS, the joint United Nations program on HIV and AIDS. The figures largely confirm earlier findings released by the group in June.

"At the end of last year, there were about 34 million people with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. While that is a slight rise from previous years, experts say that's due to people surviving longer. Last year, there were 1.8 million AIDS-related deaths, down from 1.9 million in 2009."

The AP adds that southern Africa is still the hardest hit, but the virus is surging in eastern Europe and central Asia, where "there has been a 250 percent jump in the number of people infected with HIV in the past decade, due largely to the spread among injecting drug users."

The report, says The Guardian, is filled with good news: deaths are down, infection rates are down and poor people are getting the treatment they need.

But, the Guardian adds, there is something experts don't like:

"... Funding, which is now dropping for the first time since Aids appeared in New York and San Francisco 30 years ago, will be critical to maintaining progress, say experts. The UN estimates that $22bn is needed, but this year only $16bn was forthcoming from donors. UNAids has published a framework for action to focus funds where they are most needed, but its executive director, Michel Sidibé, told the Guardian money was a concern.

"'I think it is the wrong moment [to reduce funding],' he said. 'It has been a game-changing year. It is not a time to flatten or reduce funding.'"

The report is being released ahead of World AIDS Day, which is Dec. 1.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.