June 7, 2011
The UN High Level Meeting on AIDS convenes Wednesday in New York, but whether member-states can agree on HIV treatment targets is not certain. Negotiations over how many people should qualify for treatment and how nations will fund this continue, according to diplomats.
New research shows early antiretroviral (ARV) treatment for HIV patients could slash new infections. UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe calls this development a "game-changer" in the global fight against the disease.
Though global HIV/AIDS funding had risen to $15.9 billion a year by 2009, support has declined in the worldwide economic downturn. Of the estimated 34 million people living with HIV/AIDS, 6 million are on treatment; more than 9 million are still not receiving ARVs; and the remainder do not know they are infected, UN data show.
"The world needs an ambitious HIV/AIDS treatment target with a plan attached to make it a reality, because it will be meaningless if countries aren't willing to come up with the cash and actions needed to break the back of the epidemic," said Sharonann Lynch, AIDS policy advisor for Doctors Without Borders (DWB).
"Thanks to affordable generic drugs, we've watched treatment transform lives," said DWB's Tito von Schoen-Angerer.
Many attendees are from Africa and other areas hard-hit by HIV/AIDS. Presidents Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, and Ali Bongo of Gabon -- whose country heads the UN Security Council in June -- are among the leaders expected at the meeting.