Decrease in New H.I.V. Infections

The United Nations has reported that the number of people affected by AIDS has come down compared to the epidemic’s peak levels. Still, progress in fighting the dreaded disease is fragile and halting, the U.N.’s AIDS-fighting organization (Unaids) said.

South Africa Hit the Worst
About 2.6 million people were infected with H.I.V in 2009, which is almost 20% less compared to the late 1990s. Many countries, including those in southern Africa which have high AIDS rates, are doing a better job of prevention. South Africa is the worst sufferer of AIDS. It is doing better under the presidency of Jacob Zuma, who has personally taken an AIDS test, and is encouraging his citizens to take the test too. His predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, was against the distribution of drugs meant to treat AIDS. Still, there are about 350,000 to 500,00 new AIDS infections in South Africa each year.

Welcome Changes
There is good progress in one particular area: mothers are being given drugs to avoid the infection spreading to their babies through breastfeeding, or at birth. Unaids said there has been a 50% drop in the number of young South Africans getting infected.

The organization gave many reasons for this welcome change. Parents are more willing to talk about sexuality with their children. Promiscuity is also on the decline. In a survey of people in 59 countries, only 25% admitted to having slept with multiple partners last year. This is a big change. Health agencies have also started focusing on hot spots such as truckers and sex workers. In countries such as Malawi and Senegal attitudes towards homosexuality have changed.

In certain countries homosexuals were jailed. These countries are now releasing the gays and educating them about condoms and safe sex.

AIDS Infects Heroin-injectors
But, there is a worsening trend in some countries in Central Asia and Eastern Europe, where most AIDS patients are heroin-injectors, who also infect their sexual partners. The spread of heroin from southeast Asia and Afghanistan into new countries is creating new AIDS infections in these nations.

Iran is an exception. Here, prisoners get condoms and also enjoy conjugal visits from their wives privately for five hours.

A Long Way to Go

On the AIDS treatment front, the good news is that around 5.2 million patients are regularly getting anti-AIDS drugs, which is a historical high. But, about 10 million more people need the drugs badly and there are not enough funds for all of them.

It is almost 30 years since the discovery of AIDS, and today there about 33.3 million H.I.V.-infected patients. The high number is because of new infections, and the life-prolonging treatment given to the sick. There is long way to go in winning the war against AIDS. Unaids reports that for every 100 patients who get treatment, another 200 people become infected.

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