A UN report released in time for World Aids Day tomorrow
suggests that progress in the fight against the disease is
The annual UNAIDS report on the epidemic states that, since
2001, the number of people infected in the Middle East and North
Africa has increased by more than 35 per cent. There has also been
a rise in new infections in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
The increase is in middle-income countries, where development
assistance is being reduced, it says. But in poor countries there
has been a 50-per-cent reduction in the rate of new HIV
In some of the countries that have the highest HIV prevalence in
the world, rates of new infections have been cut dramatically since
2001: by 73 per cent in Malawi; 71 per cent in Botswana; 50 per
cent in Zimbabwe; and 41 per cent in South Africa and
"The pace of progress is quickening: what used to take a decade
is now being achieved in 24 months," the executive director of
UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé, said.
The UN has launched a new initiative to reduce HIV deaths caused
by tuberculosis. TB and HIV services will be integrated in the most
heavily affected countries, to try to reduce deaths by half.
In the UK, the International AIDS/ HIV Alliance praised the
Government's financial commitment to eradicating the disease, but
urged it to exert its political influence.
The Guardian reported this week that in countries such
as Malawi, faith had a significant influence on the treatment of
AIDS: some sufferers had stopped taking their medication after
church leaders told them that they had been healed.
In a video message released by Lambeth Palace
on Friday, the Archbishop of Canterbury says: "HIV/AIDS is
regularly both the cause and the result of gender-based violence.
It results often from rape, from unacceptable and degrading sexual
practices. It's the result of attitudes towards women that demean
them, that deny their human dignity. . . HIV/AIDS is also the cause
of violence; it's the cause of stigma and rejection, and
"I believe it's crucial for governments, NGOs, [and] civil
society agencies worldwide, to keep their eyes firmly on the
connection between. . . the challenges around HIV, and the
challenges around gender equality."