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12/02/10

UNITED KINGDOM:  AIDS ‘Fatigue’ May Cause Lack of Funds, Former UNAIDS Head Says


The success in curbing HIV infections globally has engendered a dangerous complacency in the fight against the epidemic, the former head of UNAIDS said recently in an interview in London. "There is clearly AIDS fatigue," said Dr. Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine since September.

"There is a paradox that when there's results, often political leaders think, 'OK, great, declare victory, we can move to the next problem,' because there are so many problems," Piot said. However, backing away from the global fight against HIV/AIDS would be "really frightening, with bad consequences," he added.

More than 1.2 million people with HIV worldwide initiated antiretroviral therapy in 2009, up 30 percent from the previous year, according to a recently released UNAIDS report. In low- and middle-income countries, about 5.2 million people have access to the therapy, the report said.

The global accessibility of antiretrovirals is a "spectacular success," but it is important to note that there are 33 million HIV-positive individuals worldwide, Piot said.

According to UNAIDS, HIV expenditures worldwide totaled $15.9 billion, some $10 billion short of what is necessary in 2010. Piot criticized indiscriminately aimed HIV prevention efforts, calling for more selective and targeted outreach.

"In Latin America, for example, most HIV prevention programs are directed towards the general public, people who are not at high risk, and there is not much going on in the gay community where the problem is," Piot said. "That's a waste of money then."


Source: Bloomberg News (11.30.10); Courtesy of the CDC National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention