The global war on AIDS is facing a "moment of truth" and requires new strategies and slower growth in costs if anti-HIV efforts are to be sustainable, the UN said Thursday. The General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS, to be held June 8-10 at the UN's New York headquarters, will mark the 30th year since the first reports of the new disease that would become known as AIDS.
"AIDS has claimed more than 25 million lives, and more than 60 million people have become infected with HIV," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "Each day, more than 7,000 people are newly infected with the virus, including 1,000 children. No country has escaped the devastation of this truly global epidemic."
Ban cited "a wholly unsustainable" rise in costs, while resources have held steady at less than $16 billion annually since late 2007. To ensure that the 13 million people needing HIV treatment by 2015 can obtain it, the upward trajectory of costs must be curbed, Ban said.
Member states should embrace a "prevention revolution," including a commitment to reduce sexual transmission of HIV by 50 percent by 2015, Ban said. Newer prevention strategies include male circumcision in nations facing heterosexual epidemics. In the past two years, more than 200,000 men in 13 high-prevalence countries have undergone the procedure, which can reduce the risk of female-to-male HIV transmission by 60 percent. Other promising developments include using HIV drugs to prevent infection and trials involving anti-HIV vaginal microbicides.
"It is a grave global concern that 370,000 newborns contract HIV in low- and middle-income countries each year, while vertical transmission has been virtually eliminated in high-income countries," said Ban, who also called for halving mortality rates among HIV/TB co-infected patients.