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Prevention, Treatment Efforts Have 'Broken' the Direction of AIDS

A child with HIV is given medication by a caregiver in Durban, South Africa, Tuesday

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This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Wednesday is December first, World AIDS Day. This year, experts are reporting more signs of success in halting the AIDS epidemic. The number of AIDS-related deaths and the number of new infections are both decreasing.

Michel Sidibe is the executive director of the joint United Nations program known as UNAIDS.

MICHEL SIDIBE: "Today we can say with confidence and conviction that we have broken the trajectory of the AIDS pandemic."

The latest UNAIDS report says new HIV infections have fallen almost twenty percent in the last ten years. And there has been a similar drop in the last five years in the number of AIDS-related deaths.

An estimated thirty-three million people worldwide were living with HIV last year. Two and a half million were children. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.

Africa south of the Sahara has the most deaths and new infections. But many of those countries have made important progress.

Worldwide estimates show that more than two and a half million people became newly infected with HIV in two thousand nine. At the same time, about one million eight hundred thousand people died from AIDS-related sicknesses.

Drug treatment to suppress the virus has expanded. One result has been fewer babies born infected by their mothers. Still, the report says ten million people are waiting for treatment.

UNAIDS officials also say not enough is being spent for prevention. They say prevention efforts are responsible for much of the progress.

More and more young people say they are following safer practices. Surveys find greater use of condoms and people in many countries say they have fewer sexual partners.

World Health Organization chief Margaret Chan called this year's AIDS report encouraging. But she noted that the populations most at risk are also those who have the least access to services. These populations include sex workers, drug users and homosexual men.

In other health news, a new study has found that one in every one hundred deaths in the world is caused by other people smoking.

Researchers found that more than six hundred thousand non-smokers died in two thousand four. They say the deaths were from diseases and infections caused by secondhand smoke, also known as passive smoking.

The study in the journal Lancet says one hundred sixty-five thousand of those tobacco victims were children.

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


Contributing: Lisa Schlein