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World Aids Day: Elimination of HIV and Aids blocked by 'poverty and complacency'

Although global rates of are dropping, complacency is a barrier to completely eliminating HIV, according to experts.

Image: Bikas Das/AP/Press Association Images

POVERTY AND COMPLACENCY are barriers to the elimination of HIV and Aids, humanitarian agency Concern has warned.

As World Aids Day is marked today, UNAIDS estimates that 34 million people are still currently living with HIV – approximately half of whom do not know their HIV status – while the total number of new HIV infections remains high, at 2.5 million in 2011.

Although an encouraging new UNAIDS report, published last week, showed a greater than 50 per cent reduction in the rate of new HIV infections across 25 low- and middle-income countries – with more than half in Africa, the region of the world most affected by HIV.

“Although we don’t have a vaccine or cure yet, the end of AIDS is in sight,” says Breda Gahan, HIV and AIDS Programme Adviser with Concern Worldwide, “But international funding has flat-lined over the past three years. I can remember when almost everyone died from AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s. The fact that we have been making huge progress means it is even more important that individual governments and the wider international community maintain the exciting momentum that has been built.”

“Complacency and poverty are the main barriers to further reducing, if not eliminating, HIV and AIDS,” added Ms Gahan.

Sun-Saharan Africa remains the region most affected by HIV.

Research published in the Lancet medical journal shows that HIV transmission can be effectively reduced through protective antiretroviral therapy for couples in which one person has HIV.

Scientists at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing found that the rate of HIV transmission to the uninfected partner in the group that had received antiretroviral therapy (ART) was significantly lower than in the group that received no treatment, with ART for the HIV-positive partner conveying an overall 26 per cent relative reduction in the risk of HIV transmission, compared to those without treatment.

This is the first time that ART for serodiscordant couples (couples including one partner with HIV) have been shown to have an effect on reducing HIV transmission rates in a real-world setting.

Read: UN hails sharp decline in HIV infections in children

Read: Naked protesters occupy Washington off ice over possible AIDS cuts

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