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Urgent measures needed to prevent 29 million new AIDS infections by 2010 – UN

Urgent measures needed to prevent 29 million new AIDS infections by 2010 – UN

New United Nations estimates show that preventive steps aimed at stopping the spread of HIV could save 29 million people from the AIDS virus by the year 2010.

But the world body is also warning that a delay in adopting 12 recommended measures will dramatically cut the number of infections that can be prevented, according to an article written by a group of experts convened by the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to be published in The Lancet medical review tomorrow. While the number of adults infected each year could be reduced from the current over 4 million each year to approximately 1.5 million by 2005, a three-year delay could slash these potential gains in half.

“If the interventions do not take place, we could see as many as 45 million new infections by the end of the decade,” cautioned Neff Walker, UNAIDS Senior Advisor on Statistics, Modelling and Projections and one of the authors of the article.

The experts estimate the total cost of prevention programmes over the first four years at $8.4 billion. From 2005 onwards, the effort’s price will fall to about $4.8 billion annually. The full cost is estimated to be $27 billion, or approximately $1,000 for each infection.

“The implementation of this package presents many challenges,” acknowledged Bernhard Schwartlander, Director of WHO’s Department of HIV/AIDS, who also helped to author the report. At the same time, he emphasized that results were possible. “These coverage levels are achievable and the goals of reducing prevalence levels by 25 per cent by 2010, adopted by all governments at the UN Special Session on HIV/AIDS last year, can be met.”

The 12 prevention interventions include mass media campaigns; public sector condom promotion and distribution; condom social marketing; voluntary counselling and testing programmes; prevention of mother-to-child transmission; school-based programmes; programmes for out-of-school youth; workplace programmes; treatment of sexually transmitted infections; peer counselling for sex workers; outreach to men who have sex with men; and harm reduction programmes for injecting drug users.