The United Nations Secretary General has warned the number of people being diagnosed with HIV is outpacing those who are currently receiving treatment for the disease.
At a high-level meeting on AIDS in New York which started on Monday, Ban Ki-Moon said that despite medical advances and increased resources for HIV, which cost $10 billion last year, the Progress in AIDS response was still a long way from meeting global targets.
“Unless greater and swifter advances are made in reaching those who need essential services, the epidemic’s burden on households, communities and societies will continue to mount,” he said.
According to UN figures a staggering 2.5 million people became infected with HIV last year compared with 1 million who started using antiretroviral drugs.
People with weakened immune systems caused by HIV are also up to 50 times more likely to develop tuberculosis.
Dr Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS said: “Every day almost 7,000 people are needlessly infected with HIV because they do not have access to proven interventions to prevent transmission. It’s time to act.”
Former president Bill Clinton also highlighted the effect rising oil prices have had on the battle against the disease.
“This oil price spike has taken away 100 percent of the value of foreign aid and debt relief to very many countries,” he said.
“It has dramatically increased the cost of producing food, and it has increased therefore the number of people who are at risk of these diseases.”
Antiretroviral drugs have made HIV a manageable illness for many patients and prolonged their lives beyond what once seemed possible.
Although the annual rate of new infections appears to have decreased in the last decade there are still an estimated 33 million people worldwide living with AIDS.
The UN-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria announced this week it has helped 1.75 million get antiretroviral treatment, a 59 per cent increase on last year.
But according to UN figures there are still more than two-thirds of people with HIV globally who are not receiving any treatment.
The AIDS meeting will review progress towards targets agreed by the UN General Assembly in its 2001 Declaration of Commitment and its 2006 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS.
For more information visit www.un.org/ga/aidsmeeting2008.