May 31, 2006 -- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan today said countries have fallen far short of their goals in fighting HIV/AIDS, which he referred to as "a devastating obstacle to the progress of humankind."
Annan spoke at the start of a three-day General Assembly meeting on HIV/AIDS. He warned that efforts have been especially slow in fighting the disease's spread among women and girls.
A South African activist, Kehnsami Mavasa, called on the General Assembly to adopt a final declaration that lays out a course of action for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment worldwide. Mavasa is the first HIV-positive person to address the assembly.
Yesterday, the UN's agency on HIV/AIDS said the global rate of new HIV infections appeared to have levelled off, but that the disease remains a serious threat.
The United Nations has issued its annual report on the AIDS epidemic. Here are some of its findings:
- There are currently an estimated 40.3 million people living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Of those, 17.5 million are women and 2.3 million are children under the age of 15.
- There were an estimated 4.9 million new HIV infections in 2005, including 700,000 children under the age of 15.
- An estimated 3.1 million people, including 570,000 children, died of AIDS in 2005.
- According to the report, more than 25 million people have died of AIDS worldwide since the disease was recognized in 1981.
- In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the number of HIV-positive people reached 1.6 million in 2005, up from 1.2 million in 2003. The bulk of people living with HIV in the region are in the Russian Federation and Ukraine. "Ukraine's epidemic continues to grow, with more new HIV infections occurring each year, while the Russian Federation has the biggest AIDS epidemic in all of Europe," the report states. A private Russian survey cited in the report found "no postive changes in sexual behaviour, with condom use decreasing slightly among people in their twenties."
- In Central Asia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have seen the most dramatic increases of HIV infections. In the Caucasus, the situation is described "relatively stable."
Central Asia: AIDS Project Seeks To Avert Epidemic
Eastern Europe: European Commission Warns Of 'Resurgent' HIV/AIDS Epidemic
Listen to a short interview by RFE/RL's Tajik Service with Gregory Henning Mikkelsen, director of EU team for a joint EU/UN AIDS initiative. In the November 21, 2005, interview, Mikkelsen describes the epidemic in Central Asia.Real Audio Windows Media