New HIV infections decline: WHO

New HIV infections have been reduced by 17 per cent over the past eight years and the death toll from HIV has reduced by more than 10 per cent due to greater access to anti-retroviral drugs, according to latest figures from The World Health Organization (WHO).

Human Immunodeficiency ViruWHO and the Joint UN Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAids) say that according to new data in the 2009 AIDS epidemic update, new HIV infections have been reduced by 17 per cent over the past eight years.

Since 2001, the number of new infections in sub-Saharan Africa is approximately 15 per cent lower, which are about 400 000 fewer infections in 2008. In East Asia HIV incidence has declined by nearly 25 per cent and in South and South East Asia by 10 per cent in the same time period.

In the report released today, the WHO said that in Eastern Europe, after a dramatic increase in new infections among injecting drug users, the epidemic has leveled off considerably. However, in some countries there are signs that HIV incidence is rising again.

"The good news is that we have evidence that the declines we are seeing are due, at least in part, to HIV prevention," said Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS. "However, the findings also show that prevention programming is often off the mark and that if we do a better job of getting resources and programmes to where they will make most impact, quicker progress can be made and more lives saved."

More people are living with HIV than ever before. Data from the AIDS Epidemic Update also show that at 33.4 million, 31.1 million-35.8 million there are more people living with HIV than ever before as people are living longer due to the beneficial effects of antiretroviral therapy and population growth.