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     Home > Justice and Peace >  2013-11-04 15:58:35
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Marginalised groups have stubbornly high rates of HIV



November 04, 2013 - HIV epidemics are becoming more concentrated in marginalised groups such as sex workers, drug users and gay men, and could defy global attempts to combat AIDS without a change in attitudes, according to a U.N. special envoy. Michel Sidibe, formerly head of UNAIDS and now tackling HIV and AIDS in Eastern Europe, says he would like to be able to celebrate without reservation vast global progress made in the past decade, but stubborn infection rates and alarming growth of outbreaks in hard-to-reach populations make that difficult. The risk, he says, is that as the world turns the tide of the generalised global AIDS epidemic, the virus will return to being a disease that plagues only certain groups, and the political will to overcome it there may fade. "If we do not address the roots of the problem, if we do not address stigma, discrimination and inappropriate legislation, if we don't look at these people from a public health perspective, rather than from a delinquent, criminal perspective as we do now, then the trend will only go on," Sidibe said in an interview. "Then the AIDS epidemic will become more and more a sum of these concentrated epidemics."
Some 35.3 million people worldwide are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS, but the rising number of patients reflects great strides in recent years in developing sophisticated HIV tests and combination AIDS drugs and getting them to many of those who need them to stay alive. The annual AIDS death toll is falling, dropping to 1.6 million people in 2012, down from a peak of 2.3 million in 2005, and there are also steadily declining rates of new HIV infections: a third fewer in 2013 than in 2011. The progress has generated much hope - and many headlines - about the possible end of AIDS, or a potential world without HIV, or the chance of an AIDS-free generation, in our lifetimes. Sidibe refers to this - both the progress and the hope – as "extraordinary". "I'm really concerned about the future of the AIDS epidemic, especially at a time when we are perhaps a little too optimistic because of the huge progress we are making from a technological and scientific perspective," he said. (Source: Reuters)




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