GENEVA, November 29, 2010
— Representatives of churches and Christian organizations campaigning together on HIV and AIDS through the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance
have welcomed new figures that the HIV epidemic is being contained, with the number of new HIV infections being stabilized or reversed in at least 56 countries. Yet, reaching universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support remains a vital goal to maintain progress, they warn.
The statistics were newly issued by UNAIDS
in its 2010 Global Report.
According to the report, at the end of 2009, there were an estimated 33.3 million people living with HIV, 2.6 million were newly infected and 1.8 million died from AIDS-related causes. These figures are slight decreases from those of 2009, with the figures for new infections and deaths nearly 20% lower than estimates in 1999.
However, the report still highlights that infections are outpacing treatment by 2 to 1, and 10 million people are still waiting for treatment.
"We are going in the right direction, but we can't rest now," says Rev. Christo Greyling from World Vision International
. "We have to sustain the efforts that have made this progress possible, and increase them where we are still falling short of universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support."
While the report notes that the total number of children born with HIV has decreased by 24% over the past five years, 370,000 children were newly infected with HIV in 2009, with the lack of services to prevent mother-to-child transmission particularly acute in 14 countries. Dr Sonja Weinreich, Church Development Service (EED), Germany, stressed the need to strengthen efforts to provide services for mothers and children living with HIV. "We still are a long way, in many areas, from providing appropriate testing and medicines for the 2.5 million children already living with HIV."
And significant barriers remain that depend, not on medicines or money, but on attitudes.
"From personal beliefs to national laws, we have to respect everyone's human dignity," states Dr Nyambura Njoroge, World Council of Churches
. "All of us, but particularly religious leaders because of their influence in communities, need to be visible and vocal against stigma and discrimination and all forms of violence that make women and men more vulnerable to HIV transmission."
"Let us heed the caution that this represents 'fragile' progress," says Msgr. Robert Vitillo, Caritas Internationalis. "2.6 million new HIV infections during 2009 are 2.6 million too many; and the two new infections for each person gaining access to treatment is unacceptable."
Vitillo continued, "After opening treatment access to so many millions of people living with HIV, the international community must maintain and expand that commitment rather than decrease support for such programs - this is a matter of life and death for those who already are among the most vulnerable and burdened by the HIV pandemic."
Since AIDS was identified in the early 1980s, more than 60 million people have been infected with HIV and nearly 30 million have died of AIDS-related illnesses.UNAIDS 2010 Global Report available at: www.unaids.orgEcumenical Advocacy Alliance's ReleaseWorld Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender