AIDS top list of global health concerns

A new international opinion poll
shows AIDS tops the list of health concerns among people in countries in all
regions of the world.  The poll was
conducted by UNAIDS and Zogby International before a major AIDS conference next
week in Vienna.

Nearly 30 years into the AIDS
epidemic, the first of its kind poll on HIV finds people everywhere rank AIDS
high on the list of the most important issues facing the world.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel
Sidibe said about half the 12,000 poll respondents are optimistic that the
spread of HIV can be stopped by 2015.

“However, half of all the people
surveyed say a lack of funding is an obstacle,” said Mr. Sidibe.  “And, more than 70 per cent say resources
should go to HIV-prevention. This highlights the importance of stopping new

The AIDS pandemic appears to have
stabilized in most regions, although Eastern Europe and central Asia continue
to have high rates of new HIV infections. 
UNAIDS officials say 57 per cent of new infections in these regions are
occurring among people injecting drugs.

Sub-Saharan Africa remains the most
heavily affected region, accounting for 71 per cent of all new HIV infections.

Mr. Sidibe said the worldwide
response to AIDS is showing results, but the epidemic remains a serious
problem.  “We estimated that in 2008,
there were 33.4 million people living with HIV around the world … and
two-million people died of AIDS-related illnesses,” said Mr. Sidibe.

The UNAIDS/ZOGBY opinion poll shows
one in three people consider public awareness about AIDS to be the greatest
achievement of the international efforts. 
This is followed by implementation of HIV prevention programs and the
development of new anti-retroviral drugs.

More than half of those surveyed
consider the availability of prevention services to be the most important
obstacle. Stigma and discrimination are cited as other barriers.

In another significant finding, a
new UNAIDS report shows HIV prevalence among young people is dropping in many
key countries around the world, especially in parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Five-million people living with HIV
are receiving life-saving anti-retroviral treatment, but an additional 10
million are in need of treatment.