Africa reports improvement in HIV treatment

Access to HIV treatment has improved greatly in Sub-Saharan Africa, the region which has long been worst hit by the AIDS epidemic, leading to a steady drop in deaths, the United Nations said.

"The most dramatic increases in anti-retroviral therapy coverage have occurred in sub-Saharan Africa, with a 20% increase between 2009 and 2010 alone," said UNAIDS, noting nevertheless that some 1.2 million people died of AIDS in the region in 2010.

Universal access to treatment – defined as coverage of more than 80% – has been achieved in Botswana, Namibia and Rwanda, while Swaziland and Zambia have reported coverage levels of between 70 and 80%.

"Across cities and villages in sub-Saharan Africa, from Harare to Addis Ababa to rural Malawi and South Africa's Kwazulu Natal province, introducing HIV treatment has dramatically reduced Aids-related mortality," said UNAIDS.

New infections declining

Coupled with the improved access to treatment, new HIV infections were also declining sharply.

"Since the peak of the epidemic in 1997, the total number of new HIV infections in the region has declined by more than 26% from 2.6 million to 1.9 million," said UNAIDS, the agency charged with the international campaign against the disease.

 In South Africa, whose population of 5.6 million HIV-infected people is the biggest in the world, the incidence rate has fallen by a third between 2001 and 2009, from 2.4% to 1.5%.

The sub-Saharan African region continues to have the largest number of people infected with HIV.

In 2010, they made up some 68% or 22.9 million of all HIV-infected people.

(Sapa, November 2011)

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