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Efforts to stem the world's AIDS epidemic are “entirely inadequate,” warned the United Nations this week as it released figures showing that the number of people who became infected with HIV and died from AIDS hit record levels this year.
An estimated 40 million people around the world, including 2.5 million children, are living with HIV, according to latest figures from the Joint United Nations Programme in HIV/AIDS and the World Health Organization issued ahead of the world AIDS day, which is on 1 December.
Every day in 2003 an estimated 14 000 people contracted HIV, says the report, AIDS Epidemic Update 2003. Altogether, an estimated five million people were newly infected and three million people died from AIDS.
The worst hit region is sub-Saharan Africa, which continues to be disproportionately affected by the epidemic. A third of the people with HIV and AIDS live in the area, although just 2% of the world's population live there.there.
Dr Peter Piot, the executive director of UNAIDS, said at the launch of the report: “The world is mounting a greater response to AIDS through individual initiatives like the US government's emergency plan on AIDS and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. However, it is clear that our current efforts remain entirely inadequate for an epidemic that is continuing to spiral out of control. AIDS is tightening its grip on southern Africa and threatening other regions of the world. Today's report warns regions experiencing newer HIV epidemics that they can either act now or pay later—as Africa is now having to pay.”
To increase access to appropriate treatment, the World Health Organization announced the launch of the “3 by 5” initiative, so called because the aim is to bring antiretroviral treatment to three million people by 2005.
For further information about the report visit www.unaids.org