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Commentary & Opinion

How to Turn the Corner on AIDS

November 28, 2005

"... The good news is hard to find in the new UN [AIDS] report, but it's there. While the number of AIDS deaths continues to rise, the rate of increase is slowing, probably because a growing percentage of people in need now have access to HIV treatment. The World Health Organization reports that between 250,000 and 350,000 deaths were averted last year because of expanded access to treatment. More governments are moving to reduce the global HIV death rate by strengthening the health systems that deliver AIDS care. But this effort is proceeding at a maddeningly slow pace that must be stepped up.

"... The other critical and equally difficult challenge is reducing new HIV infections, which reached 5 million last year. ... When you consider that, globally, fewer than one in five people at risk for HIV infection has any access to HIV prevention information, it becomes clear that a new approach is required.

"... The approach that excites public health advocates, and that seems increasingly achievable, is building and strengthening health care systems in the developing world so they can deliver both HIV treatment and prevention, including voluntary counseling and testing.

"... Access to treatment is driving new interest in HIV prevention and testing among governments and individuals. In one region of South Africa, demand for voluntary HIV testing and counseling increased by 1,200 percent when treatment became available. The interest and excitement created by the growing availability of HIV care must be marshaled to support the building of health care systems that provide not only HIV services but also education and testing for other diseases that facilitate HIV transmission and exacerbate AIDS, such as malaria, TB and sexually transmitted infections.

"... Current efforts to provide HIV treatment, intensify prevention and strengthen health services are scattered and lack the pace and rhythm needed to make a global impact. If we coordinate efforts, however, to strengthen the health care systems that can holistically address prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and the other debilitating diseases of the developed world, there is reason to believe that we can turn a corner on this and other epidemics."

The author is director of the HIV/AIDS Department at the World Health Organization.

Back to other news for November 28, 2005

Adapted from:
Washington Post
11.23.05; Jim Yong Kim

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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