EUROPE/ITALY - December 1: World AIDS Day.

Rome (Agenzia Fides) – Today, December 1 is World AIDS Day. The epidemic, that in past decades has led to a high number of victims, is today passing through a new phase. Several developments have been made in the attempt to deter it, however there is still lots left to be done in other areas. Once again, Africa is the continent where the problem is most serious. The statistics released by the United Nations can help in better understanding the situation. We are seeing an increase in the number of people infected, on a world level: from 29.5 million in 2001, to 33 million in 2007. The increase has been determined by the new cases diagnosed, almost 7,500 cases per day, however there is also a greater availability for receiving antiretroviral treatment, which offers a greater number of people infected, the chance to live longer. Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the most heavily HIV-infected area, as it is home to 67% of all those tested HIV-positive and 72% of those who died from AIDS in 2007. On a global level, thanks to the prevention methods, the number of people newly infected with HIV has dropped from 3 million in 2001 to 2.7 in 2007. In Kenya, however, the number has risen (6.7% in 2003; between 7.1% and 8.5% in 2007) and in several countries outside Africa, it is also rising. It should be noted that in 2007, nearly 3 million people received antiretroviral treatment, and the increase in people receiving therapy has led to a decrease in the number of deaths from AIDS: from 2.2 million in 2005 to 2 million in 2007. It seems that the epidemic has taken a certain path in recent years, in regards to women. On a global level, the number of HIV-positive women is at 50%, and the number of those contracting the disease is on the rise in several countries. In Africa, 60% of HIV-positive are women, and two out of every three young people infected are females. There is also the part of the consequences on children. On a global level, the number of children (under the age of 15) who are HIV-positive has increased from 1.6 million in 2006 to 2 million in 2007, 90% of them living in sub-Saharan Africa. Since 2003, however, the number of children who have died from AIDS has begun to decrease, thanks to a wider distribution of antiretroviral therapy. In the regions outside sub-Saharan Africa, HIV has mainly affected those most at risk (drug addicts, homosexuals, prostitutes). On a general level, it is certain that without a greater effort from the international community, in the fight against HIV/AIDS, the level of human loss is destined to increase. In December 2007, the number of HIV-positive persons in the world was 33.2 million, 2.5 million of whom were newly infected. The most recent statistics from the United Nations in this area leave no room for doubt. Their discoveries are alarming: the international community is losing the fight against the virus. The results are still lacking in the area of prevention: it is estimated that in 2007 the number of newly infected was 2.5 times higher than those who received antiretroviral medicines. In spite the 42% increase (from 2006) in antiretroviral medicine distribution, only 30% of the infected living in developing nations have had access to the cure. The problem, once again, is affecting the poorest countries in the nation, and thus, it makes it even more important that the objectives established by the international community be reached. Specifically, this implies guaranteeing universal access to prevention services, treatment, and support for HIV/AIDS by 2010. This has been the clearest and most ambitious objective established by the G8, the eight countries whose next summit meeting is scheduled to take place in Italy in 2009. (Mtp) (Agenzia Fides 1/12/2008)

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