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AIDS Deaths Drop Globally as Access to Drugs Improves; Coverage Highest in Latin America

According to a new report released by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), a record 8 million people are now receiving antiretroviral therapy, thanks to increased domestic investment by low- and middle-income countries. The report, Together we will end AIDS, found that in 2011 there were 34.2 million people worldwide living with HIV, and AIDS-related deaths had fallen to 1.7 million—significantly down from a peak of 2.3 million in 2005.

A primary reason for the drop in deaths is the increase in access to treatment, which has prolonged the lives of HIV-positive individuals and reduced rates of infection. In 2011, 8 million people—1.4 million more than in 2010—were receiving antiretroviral drugs. Latin America and the Caribbean have the highest rates of coverage, with 70 percent and 60 percent coverage, respectively. The total number of people living with HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2011 was about 1.6 million, with the burden of disease disproportionately borne by the poor, the Indigenous and, in the Caribbean, women.

The increase in access to treatment has largely been a result of increased domestic public investments in the response to HIV/AIDS. In 2011, low- and middle-income countries invested $8.6 billion in HIV/AIDS—up 15 percent from 2010, and surpassing the amount of global investment, which has remained essentially flat at $8.2 billion since 2008. “Countries most affected by the epidemic are taking ownership and demonstrating leadership in responding to HIV,” said Michael Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS. BRICS countries in particular have dramatically increased domestic spending; they now fund, on average, over 75 percent of their domestic AIDS responses.

The new UN report was launched ahead of the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington DC next week—the first to take place in the U.S. since a 22-year travel ban on people living with HIV was lifted. As part of the conference, Latin American and Caribbean leaders have organized a series of events with prominent researchers, community leaders and experts to collaborate in confronting the epidemic in the region and within diaspora communities.

Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
Tags: Health care, Health policy, HIV/AIDS

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