The number of AIDS deaths worldwide dropped 10% in 2007 because of increasing access to treatment, as did the number of new infections in children, the United Nations reported Tuesday.
Condom use and prevention efforts increased in many countries and adolescent sexual intercourse declined in some of the most heavily affected regions, the report says.
"In a surprisingly short period of time, there has been a tripling of prevention efforts in some countries," said Dr. Paul De Lay, director of evaluation for UNAIDS.
Despite these gains, however, the overall number of new infections remained constant at about 2.7 million for the year, fueled by increases in countries that include China, Indonesia, Kenya, Mozambique, Russia and Vietnam.
"Although we have seen real progress in the last two years, if we want to continue to see results, we will need to see more financial resources and commitment," said Purnima Mane, deputy executive director of the U.N. Population Fund.
The biennial UNAIDS report was issued just days before the Sunday start of the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City.
The numbers are little changed from a report issued in November in which the agency drastically revised estimates of HIV prevalence.
The new report says about 33 million people are living with HIV. About 2.7 million people were newly infected with the virus in 2007, down from 3 million in 2001, and 2 million died of complications from AIDS last year, down from 2.2 million the previous year.
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About $3 billion a year is being spent on treatment for 3 million people in developing countries, compared with fewer than half a million people in 2003. In Namibia, for example, 88% of those needing treatment in 2007 were receiving it, compared with 1% in 2003. Cambodia scaled up treatment from 14% to 67%.
Progress is also being made in preventing mother-to-child transmission. From 2005 to 2007, the percentage of pregnant women in developing countries receiving treatment rose from 14% to 33%, while the number of new infections in children fell from 410,000 to 370,000.
Condom use among people with multiple sexual partners is increasing, and young people are waiting longer to have sexual intercourse, the report says. In seven of the countries most affected by the pandemic -- all in Africa -- the percentage of young people having sex before the age of 15 has dropped from 35% to 14%.
"The lesson here is that where there is investment, prevention and treatment work," said the Rev. Canon Gideon Byamugisha of the Hope Institute in Uganda.
The report came a day before President Bush is scheduled to sign a bill that would devote $48 billion to fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis over the next five years, up from the $15 billion spent in the last five.
But those gains abroad come at the expense of African Americans, according to another report issued Tuesday by the Black AIDS Institute in Los Angeles.
Seven of the 15 poor countries receiving assistance from the president's program have fewer infected people than the 500,000 U.S. blacks who are HIV-positive, the report says. The U.S. is spending $402 million this year to combat AIDS among minority groups, a Bush spokesperson said.
"Were Black America a separate country, it would elicit major concern and extensive assistance from the U.S. government," said Phill Wilson, chief executive of the institute. A free-standing Black America would rank 105th worldwide in life expectancy, he said.
Only four countries outside sub-Saharan Africa have a higher prevalence of HIV infection than the estimated 2% among blacks in the U.S., he added. Blacks account for 1 of 8 Americans but 1 of 2 HIV infections in the country.
"U.S. policymakers seem to be much more interested in the epidemic in Botswana than the epidemic in Louisiana," said the Rev. Al Sharpton, chief executive of the National Action Network. "This is an unnecessary and deadly choice. Both need urgent attention."
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New HIV cases in 2007, down from 3 million in 2001
AIDS-related deaths last year, down from 2.2 million the previous year
Source: UNAIDS report