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UNAIDS: 50% drop in new HIV infections across 25 countries

GENEVA, Switzerland -- A new World AIDS Day report by the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) shows that a more than 50% reduction in the rate of new HIV infections has been achieved across 25 low- and middle-income countries –– more than half in Africa, the region most affected by HIV.

“The pace of progress is quickening—what used to take a decade is now being achieved in 24 months,” said Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS.

“We are scaling up faster and smarter than ever before. It is the proof that with political will and follow through we can reach our shared goals by 2015," he said.

The area where perhaps most progress is being made is in reducing new HIV infections in children. Half of the global reductions in new HIV infections in the last two years have been among newborn children.

“It is becoming evident that achieving zero new HIV infections in children is possible,” Sidibé said. “I am excited that far fewer babies are being born with HIV. We are moving from despair to hope.”

In the last two years, new HIV infections in children decreased by 24%.

There are also fewer AIDS-related deaths as anti-retroviral therapy has emerged as a powerful force for saving lives. There were more than half a million fewer deaths in 2011 than in 2005. The largest drops in AIDS-related deaths are being seen in countries where HIV has the strongest grip. South Africa, Kenya, and Ethiopia.

The report shows that countries are increasing investments in the AIDS response despite a difficult economic climate. In 2011, for the first time ever, domestic investments from low- and middle-income countries surpassed global giving for HIV.

However, international assistance, which has been stable in the past few years, remains a critical lifeline for many countries. The United States accounts for 48% of all international assistance for HIV and together with the Global Fund for AIDS.

The report shows that HIV continues to have a disproportionate impact on sex workers, men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs. HIV prevention and treatment programs are largely failing to reach these key populations.

“UNAIDS will focus on supporting countries to accelerate access to HIV testing and treatment. Now that we know that rapid and massive scale up is possible, we need to do more to reach key populations with crucial HIV services,” said Sidibé.

World AIDS Day is Dec. 1.

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