, SHANGHAI, Dec 1 – New figures released by the World Health Organization and UNAIDS estimate the number of new HIV infections have declined each year by about 17 percent from 2001 to 2008, but for every five people infected, only two start treatments.
According to the 2009 AIDS epidemic update released in Shanghai, China on November 24, about 2.7 million people were newly infected with HIV last year, compared with about 3.3 million in 2001.
The massive human suffering caused by the HIV and AIDS epidemic has not gone away. “Those hit the hardest by the epidemic, including the poor and marginalised, must have their fundamental right to essential health care and life, free from fear of stigma and discrimination, respected,” World AIDS Campaign Executive Director Marcel van Soest said.
The UN report noted about 4 million people were receiving AIDS drugs at the end of 2008, compared with 3 million the previous year. Nonetheless, an additional 5 million people need treatment and are not receiving it.
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) said the global economic crisis has already put HIV prevention and treatment programmes in jeopardy. According to the most recent World Bank report, the negative impacts of this crisis on HIV programmes will affect 70 percent of people receiving antiretrovirals in Africa within the next 12 months.
Underscoring the importance of human rights in the response to AIDS, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recently reported to the UN General Assembly that reduced access to essential HIV services and commodities were occurring in many countries as a result of laws and policies that were inconsistent with their commitments to human rights.
He stressed that where human rights were promoted to protect people living with HIV and members of vulnerable groups, there were fewer infections, less demand for antiretroviral treatment and fewer deaths.
Some governments continue to pass and enforce overly broad laws that criminalise the transmission of HIV which are in direct contradiction to their stated commitments.
More than 50 countries still have laws that restrict the entry, stay and residence of people living with HIV based on their positive HIV status only, discriminating against them in their freedom of movement and right to work.
At the same time, laws and regulations protecting people with HIV from discrimination and women from gender inequality and sexual violence are not fully implemented or enforced.
The World AIDS Campaign Global Steering Committee Chair Allyson Leacock said: “This World AIDS Day, the universal access and human rights theme is about us, about communities, about people like you and me and our governments making a commitment to honour and respect the dignity of the vulnerable and to those already living with HIV."