Wednesday, July 14, 2010

HIV infections drop in high risk countries

Some very good news was released today on HIV rates. A new report from UNAids says that HIV rates have fallen amongst young people in the 15 hardest hit countries. The statistics were released ahead of next week's International AIDS Conference.

UNAids gives two reasons for the drop in HIV infections with young people. First, they say that young people are doing the prevention themselves by using condoms or abstaining. Another cause for the drop is the world putting a lot of attention and money into educating the public on how to avoid AIDS.

From the Guardian, health writer Sarah Boseley gives us the statistics.

The news was even better in 12 of those countries, where HIV levels have decreased by 25% among 15- to 24-year-olds. This in response, UNAids believes, to dogged prevention campaigns warning of the dangers of HIV/Aids and the need for people to change their sexual behaviour.

The biggest drop was in Kenya, where HIV in 15- to 24-year-olds fell 60% between 2000 and 2005 to 5.4% in urban areas and to 3.6% in rural ones. Among young pregnant women in Ethiopia, the report shows a 47% decrease among in urban areas and 29% in rural areas. In urban areas of Malawi and Côte d'Ivoire, the prevalence in the same group fell 56% and in Burundi and Haiti it dropped by nearly half. Reductions of more than a third took place in Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Cote d'Ivoire, Rwanda and Lesotho.

Most of the figures come from antenatal clinics, where pregnant young women are tested. Mathematical modelling shows they are a good indicator of trends across the whole age group. But population surveys are better, and were available in seven countries. Six saw a drop in prevalence among young women – but in only four was there a fall among young men.

UNAids believes the progress is down to efforts to persuade young people to change their sexual behaviour. In 13 countries where research was carried out, young people were reported to be waiting longer before first having sex. Usually this was young women rather than young men, but in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Malawi and Zambia, both sexes were waiting longer.

The study also found that both were having fewer sexual partners and that condom use has increased among young women as well as among young men.

UNAids' proposed treatment approach is called Treatment 2.0 and could prevent 10 million deaths by 2025, it says. Only a third of the 15 million people who need Aids drugs have them and this strategy is intended to enable everybody to have access – in line with the G8 Gleneagles pledge. UNAids also calculates the plan would cut new HIV cases by one million a year, because the drugs make those taking them less infectious.

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