34.2 mln people globally living with HIV: UN report

Washington: Around 2.5 million people became newly infected with HIV last year, taking the total to 34.2 million people globally living with the deadly virus, a new United Nations report has said. With almost 1.7 million people dying of AIDS-related illnesses in 2011, more than 8 million people received antiretroviral therapy during the year, up from 6.6 million people in 2010, an increase of more than 20 per cent.

The report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), `Together We Will End AIDS`, said this has put the international community on track to reach the goal of 15 million people receiving HIV treatment by 2015, as set out by the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS unanimously adopted by UN Member States.

The report also said that about 3,30,000 children were newly infected with HIV in 2011, almost half the number in 2003, when the number of children acquiring HIV infection peaked at 5,70,000 and 24 per cent lower than the number of children newly infected in 2009 (the baseline year for the Global Plan).

New infections among children have declined dramatically for the second year in a row, it said, adding that of the estimated 1.5 million pregnant women living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries in 2011, 57 per cent received effective antiretroviral drugs to prevent transmission of HIV to their children, up from 48 per cent in 2010.

The UNAIDS said more lives are being saved through antiretroviral therapy as it has added 14 million life-years in low and middle income countries globally since 1995, with more than 9 million of these in sub-Saharan Africa alone. The estimated number of cumulative life-years added in sub-Saharan Africa more than quadrupled between 2008 and 2011, the UNAIDS report said. The UNAIDS pointed out that as international funding flattens, domestic funding for HIV has exceeded international investments.

Low and middle income countries invested USD 8.6 billion for the response in 2011, an increase of 11 percent over 2010. International funding has remained flat at 2008 levels (USD 8.2 billion). The report also pointed out a USD 7.2 billion funding gap, which it says the world must address by 2015 to treat everyone in need and to offer effective prevention interventions more widely. "This is an era of global solidarity and mutual accountability," Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS, said.

The report said more than 80 countries increase their domestic investments for AIDS by over 50 per cent between 2006 and 2011. Domestic public spending in Sub-Saharan Africa for example, (not including South Africa) increased by 97 per cent over the last five years. South Africa already spends more than 80 per cent from domestic sources and has quadrupled its domestic investments between 2006 and 2011.

"Countries most affected by the epidemic are taking ownership and demonstrating leadership in responding to HIV. However, it is not enough for international assistance to remain stable — it has to increase if we are to meet the 2015 goals," Sidibe said. While China has pledged to fill the resource gap with its own money, the Government of India plans to contribute at least 90 per cent of the funding for Phase IV of its National AIDS Control Programme, the report said.