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Experts Say as AIDS Epidemic Changes, So Should Prevention Efforts

New H.I.V. infections are down an estimated 17 percent since 2001. But experts say prevention programs need to better target groups at risk. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Tuesday was World AIDS Day, and the latest report on the epidemic provided some reason to celebrate.

Experts say new H.I.V. infections have fallen by seventeen percent since two thousand one. Estimates for sub-Saharan Africa are down by about fifteen percent. In East Asia new infections with the virus that causes AIDS have decreased almost twenty-five percent.

In Eastern Europe, the epidemic has leveled off. But new infections appear to be rising again in some countries.

The report came last week from the UNAIDS program and the World Health Organization.

It says H.I.V.-related deaths appear to have reached their highest point in two thousand four. Since the peak, deaths have fallen by around ten percent as more people have received treatment.

Experts credit the good news in the report at least in part to prevention programs, not just the natural progress of the epidemic. Yet the report points out that while the AIDS epidemic is changing, prevention programs are not.

Karen Stanecki at UNAIDS says few programs, for example, are designed for people in secure relationships. Or people over twenty-five. Or the newly single.

AIDS is the leading cause of death in women age fifteen to forty-four. Those are the main years for having children.

The W.H.O. is now advising infected women to begin antiretroviral drugs at fourteen weeks of pregnancy, instead of twenty-eight. Women are also advised to continue treatment through the recommended end of breastfeeding, when the baby is one year old. This reduces the risk of infecting the child.

Treatments and population growth mean more people than ever are living with H.I.V. The latest estimates say almost thirty-three and a half million have the virus. There were two million AIDS-related deaths last year, and two million seven hundred thousand new infections.

About two-thirds of the people with H.I.V. are in sub-Saharan Africa. Hardest hit is South Africa. On Tuesday, President Jacob Zuma announced an expansion of testing and treatment. By next April, he says, all H.I.V.-infected children less than one year old will receive treatment.

AIDS research continues. On Monday the United States said it will hold the two thousand twelve International AIDS Conference. The event has not taken place here since nineteen ninety because of restrictions against visitors with H.I.V. The travel ban will end January fourth.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. I'm Steve Ember.