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AIDS pandemic has reached tipping point, campaigners say

(Agencies) Updated: 2014-12-02 05:43

AIDS pandemic has reached tipping point, campaigners say

A patient waits for treatment at a HIV/AIDS care center on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar. There are about 200,000 HIV patients in Myanmar, of which about 125,000 require lifesaving antiretroviral treatment. KHIN MAUNG WIN / ASSOCIATED PRESS

The world has finally reached "the beginning of the end" of the AIDS pandemic that has infected and killed millions in the past 30 years, according to a leading campaign group fighting HIV.

The number of people newly infected with HIV over the past year was lower than the number of HIV-positive people who joined those getting access to the medicines they need to take for life to keep AIDS at bay.

But in a report to mark World AIDS Day on Monday, the ONE campaign, an advocacy group working to end poverty and preventable disease in Africa, warns that reaching this milestone does not mean the end of AIDS is around the corner.

"We've passed the tipping point in the AIDS fight at the global level, but not all countries are there yet, and the gains made can easily stall or unravel," said Erin Hohlfelder, ONE's director of global health policy.

HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS, is spread via blood, semen and breast milk. There is no cure for the infection, but AIDS can be kept at bay for many years with cocktails of antiretroviral drugs.

United Nations data show that in 2013, 35 million people were living with HIV, 2.1 million people were newly infected with the virus and some 1.5 million died of AIDS. By far the greatest part of the HIV/AIDS burden is in sub-Saharan Africa.

The AIDS pandemic began more than 30 years ago and has killed up to 40 million people worldwide.

According to the United Nations AIDS agency, UNAIDS, by June, 13.6 million people globally had access to AIDS drugs, a dramatic improvement on the 5 million who were getting treatment in 2010.

"Despite the good news, we should not take a victory lap yet," Hohlfelder said.

She highlighted several threats to the progress, including a $3 billion shortfall in the funds needed each year to control HIV globally.

"We want to see bold new funding from a more diversified base, including more from African domestic budgets," she said.

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