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AP Misstates UN Goal of "Zero New HIV Infections" By 2015

April 6, 2011

Zero new HIV infections by 2015? Not exactly.

Zero new HIV infections by 2015? Not exactly.

(Update: On April 8, the AP issued a correction, clarifying that it is not the UN's goal to have zero new HIV infections and zero AIDS-related deaths by 2015. "Those goals were part of the U.N.'s broad vision for fighting AIDS, but it did not set a timeframe for meeting them," reads the correction.)

Ahead of two critical United Nations meetings on the progress of the global fight against AIDS, the UN Secretary-General has released a report setting the goal of universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2015.

But the Associated Press has reported something different: The UN, the AP says, has set the goal of "zero new HIV infections and zero AIDS-related deaths by 2015" -- a target even more ambitious than "universal access."

Hundreds of news outlets, including The New York Times, used the AP's language.

So what's the real goal? After a quick call to UNAIDS' New York office, Deputy Director Mari Ortega clarified.

"That it is not what is in the Secretary-General's report," said Ortega, referring to the AP article's summary. "The zero, zero, zero is the long-term vision, but that vision is impossible to realize by 2015."

Universal access by 2015, however, he said, "is a pragmatic goal, and there are very clear indications that we are on our way."

(Some of the confusion probably stems from the report's title. Called "Uniting for universal access: Towards zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths," it does not actually say this will happen by 2015.)

The report recognizes advances made in fighting the disease. But it stresses that these gains are in jeopardy as program costs rise and countries scale back on financial contributions.

For every person who starts antiretroviral treatment, two people become newly infected with HIV. Global contributions to fight AIDS have remained flat at around $16 million since 2007, however, and the report warns against international "aid fatigue."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling on stakeholders to work toward six targets as the world aims for universal treatment and prevention access by 2015.

These are: reduce by 50 percent the sexual transmission of HIV; eliminate mother-to-child transmission; reduce by 50 percent tuberculosis deaths of people living with HIV; ensure HIV treatment for 13 million people; reduce by 50 percent the number of countries with HIV-related restrictions on entry, stay and residence; and ensure equal access to education for children orphaned or made vulnerable by HIV.

Ortega wasn't bothered by the AP's reworking of the UN's 2015 goal -- as long as media coverage brings attention to global AIDS, he said. "We are moving forward, but we are on a precarious slope," said Ortega. "We don't want to lose the gains we have made."

On Friday, representatives from UN member states will meet in New York City for the Interactive Civil Society Hearing on AIDS. This meeting is a precursor to the June UN High Level Meeting on AIDS, which is a review of the global effort to fight the virus.

Uniting for Universal Access

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This article was provided by Housing Works. It is a part of the publication Housing Works AIDS Issues Update. Visit Housing Works' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
See Also
More on HIV Treatment in the Developing World
More News on Global HIV/AIDS

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