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UN warns of AIDS rebound risk as flat funding threatens gains

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

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PARIS,France(AFP) — Great strides in preventing AIDS deaths and new infections risk being halted, even reversed, if funding and focus continues to dwindle, the UN warned today.

Announcing the lowest annual death toll in two decades for 2017, and a record number of people on life-saving treatment, UNAIDS cautioned that a creeping "complacency" threatened these achievements.

"We are sounding the alarm," the agency's executive director Michel Sidibe said at the unveiling of a global status report in Paris ahead of next week's International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam.

"Entire regions are falling behind, the huge gains we made for children are not being sustained... resources are still not matching political commitments," he lamented.

The report showed the number of people living with the immune system-attacking virus grew from 36.3 million in 2016 to 36.9 million last year thanks to widening access to antiretroviral therapy (ART).

There were 1.8 million new HIV infections, down from 1.9 million in 2016 and 3.4 million at the peak of the epidemic in 1996.

The number of deaths dropped by 50,000 year-on-year to 940,000, compared to 1.9 million in 2005 when a mere 2.1 million infected people had access to life-lengthening ART.

Last year, the number on treatment jumped to a record 21.7 million – three in five carriers of the virus, said UNAIDS.

This leaves 15.2 million people still without treatment.

"We are not moving at the pace we had set ourselves," Sidibe told journalists. "We wanted 30 million people on treatment by 2020."

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