World AIDS Day marked amid signs of progress

Updated: 2007-12-01 15:22

Paris - Activists sought Saturday to keep the battle against HIV in the public eye on World AIDS Day in the face of growing complacency amid progress in treating and slowing the spread of the disease.

An AIDS ribbon hangs from the North Portico of the White House. [Agencies] 

Even the Miss World beauty pageant on the Chinese holiday island of Sanya was being enlisted to get out the message that the disease still kills some 6,000 people each day.

The December 1 event is traditionally a time of grim stocktaking as AIDS campaigners sound the alarm over the disease's rampage through Africa, the threat it poses to Asia and former Soviet republics, and the risks to vulnerable communities such as sex workers, drug users and gay men.

But superficially, 2007 is a rare moment for celebration - and this is what worries the experts.

Last month, the agency UNAIDS announced that the prevalence of HIV or AIDS - the percentage of the world's population living with the HIV virus or the disease it causes - peaked in the late 1990s.

UNAIDS also reduced its estimate of the number of people living with HIV or AIDS to 33 million from nearly 40 million after overhauling its methods for collecting data.

The tally of new infections has fallen, too, from 3.0 million in the late 1990s to an estimated 2.5 million in 2007.

Meanwhile, the agonising effort to bring antiretroviral drugs to Africa, where more than two-thirds of the people with HIV/AIDS live, is now bearing fruit.

At the end of 2006, more than two million people were getting the vital pills, a 54 percent increase over the previous year, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

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