LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – World AIDS Day – marked this year on Saturday, Dec. 1 – is focusing on a future when the disease will be just a tragic memory.
The 2012 event’s motto is “Getting to Zero,” with the goal that by 2015 there will be zero AIDS-related deaths and infections, as well as an end to discrimination.
Over the past three decades, as the disease has spread across the globe, it has hit some nations particularly hard. On the African continent, AIDS and HIV remain crippling epidemics.
However, the United Nations’ World AIDS Day Report shows significant progress in preventing and treating HIV/AIDS in the past two years.
The report, published by the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), also found that the number of people accessing life-saving treatment rose by 60 percent and new infections have fallen by half in 25 countries – 13 of them in sub-Saharan Africa – while AIDS-related deaths have dropped by a quarter since 2005.
“We have moved from despair to hope. Far fewer people are dying from AIDS,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé in a World AIDS Day statement.
“The pace of progress is quickening. It is unprecedented – what used to take a decade is now being achieved in just 24 months. Now that we know rapid and massive scale up of HIV programs is possible, we need to do more,” Sidibé added.
The UNAIDS report estimates 1.3 million people in the United States are living with AIDS.
The California Department of Public Health’s County Health Status Profiles 2012 said the crude case rate of reported AIDS cases for Californians aged 13 years and older was 9.4 cases per 100,000 population. That is approximately one reported AIDS case for every 10,628 persons, a rate based on an average of rates from 2008 through 2010.
The statewide AIDS crude case rate did not meet the Healthy People 2010 National Objective 13-1 of no more than 1.0 AIDS case per 100,000 population aged 13 years and older, the report said.
Lake County ranked No. 28 statewide for prevalence of cases, with a rate of 1.7 cases per 100,000 from 2008 to 2010 and a crude case rate of 2.9.
Researchers are reporting that scaling up treatment and education are helping reduce not just AIDS-related deaths but also dropping new infections to the lowest levels since 1997.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria this week reported that there has been an increase of 900,000 in the number of people receiving antiretroviral therapy since the end of 2011, taking the total now getting treatment under programs supported by the Global Fund to 4.2 million.
Contributing to those increases is the dropping costs of first-line antiretroviral drugs costs, which today cost less than $100 for a year’s supply of the least expensive regimen recommended by the World Health Organization, down from more than $10,000 in 2000.
Health officials also have increased the distribution of condoms, care and support for patients, and services to at-risk populations.
Young people aged 15-24 are the group most affected by HIV, accounting for 40 percent of all new adult HIV infections, according to UNAIDS.
UNAIDS reported that in 2011 about five million young people were living with HIV worldwide, with more than 2,400 being newly infected every day.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta reported that 50,000 people in the United States get HIV each year. One in four new HIV infections occur in youth, between the ages of 13-24.
As advocates are focusing their efforts on zeroing out AIDS and HIV, the global financial crisis has presented another challenge for them.
World AIDS Campaign Chair Allyson Leacock said efforts should be increasing to achieve universal access to treatment.
However, there are concerns that won’t be the case, with the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition reporting that funding for HIV had already begun to flat line at the end of the last decade.
In 2011, the Global Fund failed to raise the minimum $13 billion that was needed to maintain its current programs, the coalition said.
Email Elizabeth Larson at firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow her on Twitter, @ERLarson, or Lake County News, @LakeCoNews.