June 10, 2008
U.N. Meeting Fights AIDS and TB
Eight foreign presidents and more than 90 prime ministers, diplomats and health officials met at United Nations headquarters in New York on June 10 and 11 to discuss the international fight against AIDS.
The Washington Post reports (washingtonpost.com, 6/10) that on the eve of the gathering, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon released a U.N. report declaring that 3 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the developing world were receiving antiretroviral treatment, reiterating data released last week by the World Health Organization, UNICEF and UNAIDS. The Post reports that this latest U.N. report indicates that despite the record-high number of people receiving antiretroviral medications—and a decrease in the number of annual AIDS-related deaths from 3.9 million in 2001 to 2.1 million in 2007—70 percent of positive people do not have access to medication, with AIDS remaining the leading cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Serious challenges remain,” Ban said. “In several countries, prevalence is rising among young people as well as women and girls. Five million Africans still need treatment.”
U.N. officials added that the failure to address the spread of tuberculosis is undermining progress in the fight against AIDS, The New York Times reports (nytimes.com, 6/10). U.N. experts note that tuberculosis—which is an airborne disease—is the No. 1 killer of people living with HIV in Africa and is a leading cause of death elsewhere.
Jorge Sampaio, the U.N. special envoy to combat tuberculosis, said that he and the U.N. secretary general will seek from this week’s meeting support for the fight against HIV/tuberculosis coinfection, which he calls “a much-neglected problem.” According to the Times, the continued prevalence of drug-resistant tuberculosis among people living with HIV in developing countries has hindered AIDS relief efforts, as health workers fear contracting TB from positive people.
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