IMPACT

UN Is 'Sounding Alarm' Because New HIV Infections Rising

The "power of prevention" needs to be realized, UNAIDS has urged.
A girl who trades sex for basic needs speaks during an interview with Reuters about HIV/AIDS at a health clinic within the Ko
A girl who trades sex for basic needs speaks during an interview with Reuters about HIV/AIDS at a health clinic within the Korogocho slum, in Kenya's capital Nairobi, February 16, 2015. Life can be brutal in Nairobi's slums, with alcoholic parents who fail to provide, or who push their daughters into the sex trade to feed the rest of the family. Girls as young as ten often have sex to survive, only to end up becoming mothers themselves -- infected with the same disease that robbed them of their parents. There are over 100,000 new HIV infections in Kenya each year, 21 percent of which are among girls and women aged between 15 and 24, said Lilian Otiso, director of services for LVCT, a Kenyan charity providing HIV/AIDS and sexual health services to children trading sex for basic needs in Nairobi slums. Picture taken February 16, 2015. REUTERS/Katy Migiro (KENYA - Tags: HEALTH)

LONDON, July 12 (Reuters) - Global efforts to prevent the spread of HIV infection must be stepped up after a long-term decline in the number of new cases in adults stalled, the United Nations AIDS agency warned on Tuesday.

In a report on the worldwide epidemic, UNAIDS said an estimated 1.9 million adults had become infected with HIV every year for at least the past five years. Globally, some 36.7 million were now infected.

New HIV infections among adults were now rising in Eastern Europe, central Asia, the Caribbean and Middle East and North Africa, the report said.

“We are sounding the alarm,” said Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS. “The power of prevention is not being realised. If there is a resurgence in new HIV infections now, the epidemic will become impossible to control. The world needs to take urgent and immediate action.”

The epidemic of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) that causes AIDS has had a devastating impact since it began some 35 years ago. Since then, 35 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses and an estimated 78 million have become infected with HIV.

Michael Otieno, a pharmacist, dispenses anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs at the Mater Hospital in Kenya's capital Nair
Michael Otieno, a pharmacist, dispenses anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs at the Mater Hospital in Kenya's capital Nairobi, September 10, 2015. Most of the 3,000 patients at Mater Hospital's Comprehensive Care Clinic, dedicated to HIV/AIDS treatment, come from nearby shanty towns. In Kenya, HIV prevalence among adults has almost halved since the mid-1990s to 5.3 percent in 2014, according to UNAIDS. Yet HIV/AIDS remains the leading cause of death in Kenya, responsible for nearly three in 10 deaths in the east African country, where 1.6 million Kenyans are infected, government data in 2014 shows. Picture taken September 10, 2015. To match Special Series DEVELOPMENT-GOALS/KENYA-HEALTH REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

The World Health Organization says all people diagnosed with HIV should have immediate access to antiretroviral AIDS drugs, which hold the virus in check and give patients a good chance of a long and relatively healthy life.

But the UNAIDS report found only around 17 million patients worldwide - less than half of those diagnosed as HIV positive - are currently on treatment.

The UNAIDS report said significant progress had been made in stopping new HIV infections among children, with new cases down by more than 70 percent since 2001.

But the decline in new infections among adults had stalled, at a time when donor funding for the fight against AIDS had dropped to its lowest levels since 2010, it said.

International donor contributions fell from a peak of $9.7 billion in 2013 to $8.1 billion in 2015.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland; editing by John Stonestreet)