Monday, July 19, 2010

International AIDS conference highlights successes of fighting the disease

Today at the 18th edition of the International AIDS conference in Vienna, Austria, former President Bill Clinton and Bill Gates took to the stage to highlight the progress in the fight against the disease. Clinton urged that nations provide their foreign aid to efforts that directly benefit people suffering from the disease, emphasizing that smaller organizations can operate at a lower cost than the more well-established organizations. Bill Gates highlighted the effectiveness of known prevention methods, such as male circumcision and mother-to-child prevention measures. At the same time, however, Gates acknowledged that foreign aid was not only lower than in previous years, but inefficiencies diluted the effectiveness of the current supply of funds. Wealthier nations who provide the foreign aid are still recovering from the global economic recession, and consequently have less to give. Countries such as Zambia and Uganda have had some of their AIDS funding repealed due to issues like corruption.

However, numerous triumphs in the AIDS battle have been recently announced. The number of people on life saving HIV treatment rose from 1.2 million last year to 5.2 million this year- the largest ever single year increase in people being treated. This has happened even though donor funding has flat lined over the past 2 years. A UN report outlines a new international method for providing treatment to those living with HIV/AIDS that could save 10 million lives by 2025, and prevent 1 million new infections each year. Despite these successes, and numerous other proposed AIDS treatment methods, there were still over 30 million people living with the disease in 2008. And while the number of deaths from AIDS has decreased to 2 million per year from 2.2 million in 2008, there are still 2.7 million new infections every year.

-Matthew Thwaites

SOURCES: "Bill Clinton, Gates: Fight AIDS more efficiently"-AP News, "An Update From the International AIDS Conference in Vienna"-US State Department, "UN records massive rise in number of people receiving HIV treatment"-UN News