Only one in five of those at the greatest risk for HIV infection know anything about how to protect themselves from the virus because less than half of what is needed is being spent on prevention, according to a report issued Tuesday by the Global HIV Prevention Working Group. Its co-chair, Dr. Helene Gayle, who is also director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's global HIV/AIDS program, said that 20 years into the epidemic, "most people in the world still don't have access to effective HIV prevention."
According to the report, only 5 percent of high-risk pregnant women have access to drugs to protect their babies from HIV; only 12 percent of high-risk people have access to counseling and testing; and only 42 percent can get condoms.
UNAIDS estimates that $1.9 billion was spent on AIDS prevention in 2002 and says that $5.7 billion will be needed annually by 2005, and $6.6 billion will be needed annually by 2007.
Congress is considering a bill to spend $15 billion on AIDS over five years, but only 20 percent is allocated to prevention because of political differences over whether to fund programs that supply condoms or offer abortions.
Spending on prevention now, Gayle said, will prevent millions of infections later. "What we are spending now, had we spent it a decade ago, we would have had half the number of new infections," she said. This would have saved an estimated $90 billion in costs such as caring for AIDS patients and orphans.
"Either we pay now or we pay later," Gayle said. "This is not an epidemic that you can fix on the cheap." Failing to invest in prevention would likely mean "an explosion of HIV" in India, China and other countries where the epidemic is emerging. Gayle quoted World Health Organization estimates that 29 million of 45 million projected new infections could be averted by 2010 if proven interventions are stepped up.
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network.
It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.