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HEALTH > AIDS deaths drop as drugs become more accesible

LOS ANGELES - Reuters

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Fewer people with HIV die as more of them get access to crucial antiretroviral drugs. REUTERS photos

Fewer people with HIV die as more of them get access to crucial antiretroviral drugs. REUTERS photos

Fewer people infected with HIV globally are dying as more of them get access to crucial antiretroviral drugs, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, the United Nations AIDS program said on Wednesday.

The United Nations estimates that about 34 million people are living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS. In a report released ahead of the International AIDS Society’s 2012 annual meeting set for next week in Washington, D.C., it said that the number of worldwide AIDS-related deaths fell to 1.7 million last year from some 1.8 million in 2010. AIDS deaths peaked at 2.3 million in 2005. The decline has been fueled by greater access to medications that help more people live with the disease. An estimated 8 million people in lower-income countries are receiving antiretroviral drugs, and the United Nations has set a target to raise that to 15 million by 2015.

Funding for HIV prevention totaled $16.8 billion last year. Of that amount, $8.2 billion came from international sources including the United States, which donated 48 percent of it. The amount of money spent by poor and middle-income countries reached $8.6 billion last year, surpassing international investment for the first time. The U.N. is also talking with pharmaceutical companies about how to improve access to lower-cost versions of simpler HIV treatments that combine several drugs in a single pill. “We need innovation which will reduce the cost of medicine,” Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS, said.
“If we want to maintain people on second- and third-line medicine it will not be possible with the price of the drugs we have today.” Paul De Lay, UNAIDS deputy executive director, speaking a briefing in Geneva, said overall progress in treating the disease could be jeopardized by a surge in infection seen in smaller patient groups.

July/20/2012

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