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Tomorrow Is World AIDS Day: Are We Closing In On An AIDS-Free Generation?
November 30, 2012
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Tomorrow is World AIDS Day - an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to honour those who have died.

It's estimated 34 million people around the world have HIV.

More than 25 million people between 1981 and 2007 have died from the virus, making it one of the deadliest pandemics ever.

However, over the past two years, there's been significant progress in the battle against HIV/AIDS - leading many advocates to suggest the end of AIDS is within reach.

Antiretroviral drugs can keep infected people alive and dramatically reduce the chances of infecting a partner. Drugs can prevent women from passing HIV on to their babies during birth.

In fact, a new report from UNAids says that over the past 10 years, the rate of new infections has dropped by more than half in 25 low and middle-income countries.

For example, in Zimbabwe, the rate dropped 50%. In Malawi, it dropped by 73%.

As part of this year's efforts, the folks at World AIDS Day have put together a campaign called #1Share1Condom.

For every person who gets involved by sharing an HIV message, Durex will donate a condom to an HIV prevention project. Check out the video.

You can find out more here.

The fact is we know what to do to stop the spread of HIV. We just need the money to do it. And that's the problem.

A new report from the ONE campaign points out that for all the progress, another five million people have contracted HIV in the past two years.

That number, the report says, shows progress is slowing down. "The world is off-track for achieving the beginning of the end of AIDS by 2015," ONE says.

ONE is a charity co-founded by U2's Bono, that is dedicated to fighting poverty and preventable disease.

It says without more funding, the AIDS pandemic will keep growing.

In fact, based on current trends, the report says we won't see "the beginning of the end of AIDS" until 2022 - seven years beyond the original goal.

Here's how the "beginning of the end" is defined.

It's when the number of people who are being treated is higher than the number of people who become infected every year.

As far as funding, UNAids says it is about $6 billion off track.

The ONE report commends the United States, Britain and France but it says Canada, Germany and Japan have to do more.

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ONE's head Michael Elliott told Reuters he understands that many countries are dealing with financial uncertainty.

"You have to be an unfeeling idiot, which we're not, to fail to recognize that the last few years have been tough economic times for people in many places all over the world," he said.

But he said developed countries are "not going to solve (their) fiscal problems on the back of development assistance."

African countries also have a role to play. The members of the African Union promised to give at least 15% of their budgets on health to HIV funding. As of 2010, only four countries (Togo, Zambia, Botswana and Rwanda) have met the target.

The ONE report says next year is a chance for all countries to step up.

tomorrow-is-world-aids-day-are-we-closing-in-on-an-aids-free-generation-feature3.jpg "Without scaled-up financing, more targeted programming and expanded displays of political will, this will remain a distant ambition, and millions of lives will hang in the balance," the report says.

Elliott added "Here's a moment to put your pedal to the metal and go for it."

To that end, the United States has unveiled a five-point plan for ending the AIDS pandemic - promising to do whatever it takes to achieve an AIDS-free generation.

"Make no mistake about it - HIV may well be with us into the future, but the disease that it causes need not be," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Clinton said the Obama administration would focus efforts on women and girls but also drug users, sex workers and men who have sex with men.

The U.S. plan promises to do the following...

Speed up the most effective treatment and prevention programs. That includes getting more people on antiretroviral drugs.

Right now, more than 8 million people are being treated worldwide. The U.S. has paid for drugs for 5.1 million of those people. That's a 200% increase since 2008.

Target people who are at risk the most: those who inject drugs, sex workers and men who have sex with men. It will also focus more on women and girls who are at risk, by combining HIV programs with family planning and reproductive health.

Promote ways to be efficient and cost-effective. For example, Clinton pointed out that the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief has saved billions of dollars by buying generic instead of brand-name HIV drugs.

• Encourage affected countries to better protect their own communities and urge donor countries to meet their funding commitments.

Support research into new scientific advances.

"It is science that has brought us to this point. It is science that will allow us to finish the job," said Clinton.

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