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Efforts to curb HIV must be stepped up, says report

HIV/AIDS advocacy group ONE pushes for more funding to end epidemic

ONE AIDS report

HIV/AIDS advocacy group ONE has warned that efforts to control the disease are losing momentum and the epidemic will continue to grow unless additional investment and funding is provided.

In a new report, ONE says that an already-agreed target of reaching 'the beginning of the end' of the HIV epidemic by 2015 is not likely to be met by current efforts to control the disease, and predicts that cases will continue to rise until 2022.

Around 34 million people are living with the burden of HIV infection worldwide, with 5 million new cases in the past two years, but advances in combination therapy and other interventions "have the potential to more effectively prevent the spread of the disease than has ever previously been thought feasible", according to ONE.

The declining cost of antiretroviral (ARV) therapy has helped to reduce the risk of transmission among heterosexual couples by 96 per cent and almost eliminated mother-to-child HIV transmission, which prompted stakeholders at World AIDS Day in 2011 to speculate on the possibility of achieving an 'AIDS-free generation' in the future.

"One year later, however, we are mindful that words alone are insufficient for enacting real change," says ONE. Its accountability report concludes that without collective action starting in 2013, "the beginning of the end of AIDS will remain a distant ambition, and millions of lives will hang in the balance".

ONE defines the 'beginning of the end' as the point at which the number of people starting ARV treatment exceeds the number of new cases of infection, and says that if 140,000 people are added to treatment programmes every year, coupled with expansion of prevention programmes, this point could be reached in 2015 rather than 2022.

Achieving that objective requires financial support, and ONE points out that the UNAIDS agency estimates there is roughly a $6bn shortfall in global AIDS funding annually.

This should be made up not only from traditional donor governments such as the US, UK and France, but also recipient countries in Africa and other regions where HIV is a big problem, as well as the emerging BRIC economies.

"The Global Fund's fourth replenishment meeting - due to be held in September 2013 - offers donors, both traditional and new, the opportunity to reinvest in … critical work to fight AIDS, as well as tuberculosis and malaria", says ONE.

The call to action comes in the wake of alarming new figures in the UK, which suggest there are 96,000 people living with HIV, but a quarter of these are unaware they are infected.

Around half of all new infections in 2011 were acquired through heterosexual sex, and more than 50 per cent of these were likely acquired in the UK rather than abroad, a reversal of the trend seen in earlier years, according to a Health Protection Agency report.

30th November 2012

From: Healthcare

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