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UN hails AIDS response, concerned about funding

GENEVA – HIV infections fell and treatment soared following an unprecedented response to the AIDS epidemic over the last decade, the U.N. said on Wednesday, while sounding the alarm over declining funds.

New infections dropped by more than a quarter between 2001 and 2009 across 33 countries, a report published ahead of Thursday’s World AIDS Day said.

More than 6.6 million received antiretroviral therapy in low- and middle-income countries last year compared to just 400,000 recorded in 2003.

In their update, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and UNAIDS hailed the “extraordinary” achievements in the battle against the disease.

The WHO and UNAIDS, the agency spearheading the international campaign, have adopted bold targets to achieve zero new infections and zero AIDS-related deaths by 2015.

“What would have been viewed as wildly unrealistic only a few years ago is now a very real possibility,” said the report.

“Nevertheless, financial pressures on both domestic and foreign assistance budgets are threatening the impressive progress to date.

An estimated 34 million people are living with HIV, according to UNAIDS estimates released earlier this month, but the number of AIDS-linked deaths is steadily dropping from a peak of 2.2 million seen in 2005 to 1.8 million last year.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said: “Heading into the fourth decade of AIDS, we are finally in a position to end the epidemic.

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