HIV :: Wealthy countries must continue showing leadership on AIDS

As top officials from the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized countries gather in Germany for their summit meeting today, the main United Nations agency dealing with AIDS urged them to show continued leadership on the issue.

The Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) ?urges the G8 leaders to translate their previous commitments on AIDS into tangible action and to ensure that additional pledges on AIDS reinforce and build on existing,? according to a press statement released ahead of the meeting of leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States in Heiligendamm.

The agency praised the G8 leaders for their ?unprecedented commitments? that led the international community to work towards the goal of ensuring universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by the year 2010.

It welcomed the results of resource tracking reports that show increases in international financing from the G8, European Commission and other donor governments. ?We also applaud the increases seen in domestic spending on AIDS and recent announcements to extend and expand investment in the global AIDS response.?

At the same time, the agency cautioned that commitments to reaching universal access will not be met at the current rate of progress. ?Despite increases in funding, according to latest data for 2006, resources available for AIDS still fell dramatically short of the estimated needs by $6 billion,? UNAIDS said.

This occurred against the backdrop of 4.3 million new HIV infections in 2006. Latest evidence indicates that the 11 million people projected to need antiretroviral treatment by the year 2010 may be underestimated by up to 50 per cent, based on a better understanding of clinical progression to AIDS and new data which shows that starting treatment earlier provides a more effective response, according to the agency.

?While the G8 leaders meet in Germany over three days, an estimated 33,000 people will be newly infected with HIV and nearly 24,000 people will die from AIDS-related illnesses,? UNAIDS noted, pledging to ?continue working with countries to ?make the money work? and to ensure universal access becomes a reality.?

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