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HIV infection rate stable for first time: UNAIDS

GENEVA: The incidence of new HIV infections appears to have stabilised for the first time in the 25-year history of AIDS, although the global pandemic will still have a deep, long-term impact, a new UN report said.

While the world is at last making progress against the disease, thanks to a massive increase in spending, better access to drugs and growing awareness, huge problems remain, the UN agency coordinating the fight against HIV/AIDS warned.

"New data shows that the AIDS epidemic is slowing down globally," said executive director of UNAIDS Peter Piot at the launch of the Global AIDS report.

"We've seen important progress made by countries over the past five years that increased funding, with a decrease in the number of new infections, particularly among young people," Piot said at the UN headquarters in New York.

But he added that there was also bad news, highlighting the lack of progress in some countries, particularly South Africa, and the increase in the number of women getting infected.

AIDS has killed more than 25 million people since it was first recognised in 1981, UNAIDS said, while the HIV virus which precedes the disease infected 65 million people over the same period.

Last year AIDS claimed the lives of 2.8 million people and over 4.1 million were newly infected with HIV, according to the report. In 2003, the UN estimated that 4.8 million were newly infected with HIV.

An estimated 38.6 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2005, the vast majority of whom were unaware that they were infected, it added.

News Source: The International News, May 31, 2006.