Dip in AIDS deaths: UN report (Dec 1 is World AIDS Day)

The number of people dying due to HIV-AIDS has declined by nearly 0.4 million in the last five years due to improved healthcare, a UN report said Wednesday. However, it cautioned that a large number of people continue to be unaware about their HIV status.

“The annual number of people dying from AIDS-related causes worldwide is steadily decreasing from a peak of 2.2 million in 2005 to an estimated 1.8 million in 2010. The number of people dying from AIDS-related causes began to decline in 2005-2006 in sub-Saharan Africa, south and southeast Asia and the Caribbean and has continued subsequently,” says the report by WHO, UNAIDS and UNICEF.

“At the end of 2010, an estimated 34 million people were living with HIV globally, including 3.4 million children below the age of 15. There were 2.7 million new HIV infections in 2010,” the report added.

The report clearly points out that despite the access in services relating to care, support and treatment, people continue to be unaware about their HIV status.

“Coverage of HIV testing and counselling among pregnant women rose from 8 percent in 2005 to 35 percent in 2010 as access to HIV testing and counselling is increasing. Nevertheless, majority of people living with HIV in low-and middle-income countries still do not know their serostatus,” the report mentioned.

Serostatus refers to the presence or absence of specific substances in the blood serum.

“An estimated 7.5 million people are eligible for treatment but are not accessing anti-retroviral therapy because they are unaware of their HIV serostatus,” it added.

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While the HIV-related mortality among children also came down in the last five years, the report presents a grim picture for children affected by HIV-AIDS.

“For children, the situation is even graver, since less than one quarter of the children eligible for treatment are accessing antiretroviral therapy. In 2010, an estimated 2,50,000 children below the age of 15 died from AIDS-related causes, 20 percent less that the deaths in 2005,” it said.

A three-fold increase in services for antiretroviral therapy (ART) across the globe was observed, showing a positive change for sustaining HIV positive patients.

“The number of health facilities providing antiretroviral therapy, a key indicator of expanded health system capacity to deliver treatment, expanded from 7,700 in 2007 to 22,400 at the end of 2010, a threefold increase,” the UN report pointed out.

According to the annual report, funding for HIV-related projects has decreased in various parts of the world.

“Domestic and international HIV-specific funding has decreased from $15.9 billion in 2009 to $15 billion in 2010, well below the estimated $22-24 billion,” it noted.

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