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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Winning the War Against HIV/AIDS--Slowly

HIV/AIDS got its start in sub-Saharan Africa and Africa still is the global hotspot with 70 percent of the cases. That's the bad news. The good news is that, as this week's Economist put it: "in the battle between virus and people, people are winning." That assessment was drawn from the recently released "UNAIDS report on the global AIDS epidemic 2013."
Though AIDS is not beaten (it still kills 1.6m people a year), this number is down from a peak of 2.3m in 2005. And the number of new infections per year has fallen by a third, to 2.3m, since 2001. Paradoxically, the number of those infected is rising. But this is because they are living longer. These trends are mostly the result of the spread of antiretroviral drugs, which are now taken by almost 10m people.
Africa’s men have also responded enthusiastically to the discovery that circumcision vastly reduces the risk of infection. Some 1.7m a year of them are now having their foreskins snipped off in 14 countries looked at by UNAIDS.
The Economist does not mention condoms (the widespread use of which would, of course, dramatically cut down on transmission), but the UNAIDS report does spend time on the efforts to promote condom use, noting that:
Recent trends (since 2000) in sexual behaviour, demonstrated in most countries, continue to indicate that more people are adopting safer sexual behaviours. Knowledge regarding the prevention of HIV transmission has increased amongst young people; the proportion of 15–24 year olds who have had sex before 15 years is decreasing; condom use has risen amongst people with multiple sexual partners; and the proportion of young people who have received an HIV test and learned their results has also increased.
However, the trend is not universal across countries, so there is a lot of work still to do.

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