A new report by UNAIDS urges countries to adopt flexible policies that reflect how and why the latest HIV infections are transmitted. The report coincides with the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day. For VOA, Lisa Bryant has more from Paris.
The overall story of HIV/AIDS is not as bleak as its numbers suggest. While an estimated 33 million people worldwide live with the HIV virus that causes AIDS, the numbers of new infections have been declining since 2001 and more HIV-infected people are getting treatment and living longer.
|An AIDS patient at a hospital in Dakar, Senegal (Nov 2007)|
But a study published Friday by UNAIDS suggests countries have much more to do to fight the epidemic - in large part by adopting combined and flexible HIV/AIDS-prevention policies - particularly since the pattern of the epidemic may change over time. Some countries are also not targeting the most vulnerable populations in fighting the virus - such as intravenous drug users and men having sex with men.
"The message is that countries need to tailor their prevention programs to the epidemics in their own specific countries," said Karen Stanecki, a senior advisor for UNAIDS in Geneva. "And they need to know where the new infections are occurring in order to do that. And we recommend a combination-prevention process of doing this where one prevention program isn't going to do it all."
Stanecki says that message has registered in some countries. Namibia is a case in point.
"They have put various strategies into place and they are now seeing reductions in new infections among young people," she said. "Young people are delaying sexual activity . They're reducing the numbers of multiple partners and we've seen increase use in condoms."
The global financial crisis may pose a new threat for cash-strapped countries. But experts warn that cutting corners when it comes to fighting HIV/AIDS will leave the world in worse shape in a few years time than it is now.