Commentary & Opinion
Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report Summarizes Editorials on Recent UNAIDS Report Showing Nearly 40 Million People Worldwide Living With HIV/AIDS
November 27, 2006
UNAIDS and the World Health Organization last week issued a report that says that the number of people living with HIV/AIDS over the past two years has increased and that the worldwide total now stands at nearly 40 million. The report, titled "AIDS Epidemic Update: December 2006," estimates that 4.3 million new HIV infections occurred worldwide this year and that about 2.9 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses. Several newspapers have published editorials about the report. Summaries appear below.
- San Francisco Chronicle: The statistics in the UNAIDS report "should remind decision-makers and health planners that the battle" against HIV/AIDS "must continue," a Chronicle editorial says, adding, "There are both successes and failures in the AIDS fight" and "[n]either complacency nor despair are warranted." According to the editorial, it would cost less to work to prevent the spread of HIV than to treat HIV-positive people. The editorial adds that a "flexible approach, tailored country by country, may work best," concluding, "The answers, like the virus itself, keep changing" (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/24).
- Seattle Post-Intelligencer: After reading the UNAIDS report, one can see that "more than two decades into the epidemic, the spread of the disease continues to outpace humankind's response," a Post-Intelligencer editorial says. Although antiretroviral drugs "have worked wonders in extending the lives of millions," some experts say "advances have also caused complacency in Western countries," the editorial says, adding that while "there has been a start toward the kind of funding that will be needed" to fight HIV/AIDS globally from some countries, including the U.S., there is a "lack of similar effort from some other major countries." The editorial concludes that "AIDS shows no sign of letting up. Fighting it will require truly global vigilance" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 11/26).
- Tennessean: The findings of this year's UNAIDS report "mingled hope with foreboding" about the status of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, a Tennessean editorial says. Although better "treatment, increased resources and a higher level of political commitment" have extended the lives of HIV-positive people, the HIV/AIDS pandemic is "growing," the editorial adds. The findings of the report "all appear to support the message public health experts have been expounding for a quarter of a century: Educating the public is the best way to stem this deadly epidemic," the editorial concludes (Tennessean, 11/25).
- Washington Post: Although the world spends nearly $8 billion annually on HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention and care, "the news on AIDS remains awful," a Washington Post editorial says. According to a recently released UNAIDS report on the state of the pandemic, "more people are dying from AIDS, more people are being infected and the number of people living with the virus is at a record level," the editorial says, adding that the "clearest achievement" in the fight against HIV/AIDS has been to increase the number of people receiving antiretrovirals to 1.7 million. However, this increase is "not yet a victory" and is "subject to caveats," the editorial says, adding that, according to WHO, an additional five million people worldwide need antiretrovirals immediately. As treatment efforts expand, it is necessary to "face the challenges of dealing with harder-to-serve groups and of enlisting extra medical personnel without diluting quality," the editorial says, adding that there also is the "theoretical danger" that HIV/AIDS treatment availability, "particularly when coupled with food handouts or other services, might increase risky behavior." Therefore, "the big challenge is to get serious about prevention" and the need for "constant vigilance," according to the editorial. "Botswana illustrates how far there is to go" in sustained HIV prevention efforts, the editorial says, concluding, "According to the U.N. report, only about one in three people ages 15 to 24 understands the basics of how HIV is transmitted" (Washington Post, 11/24).
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