UN: Global fight against AIDS is at ‘precarious point’

Since the start of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, more than 77 million people have tested positive for HIV, and almost half of them have died of AIDS. (AFP)
Updated 18 July 2018
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UN: Global fight against AIDS is at ‘precarious point’

  • ‘There are miles to go in the journey to end the AIDS epidemic. Time is running out’
  • Since the start of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, more than 77 million people have become infected with HIV

LONDON: Complacency is starting to stall the fight against the global AIDS epidemic, with the pace of progress not matching what is needed, the United Nations warned on Wednesday.
The United Nations’ HIV/AIDS body UNAIDS said in an update report that the fight was at a “precarious point” and while deaths were falling and treatment rates rising, rates of new HIV infections threatened to derail efforts to defeat the disease.
“The world is slipping off track. The promises made to society’s most vulnerable individuals are not being kept,” the report said. “There are miles to go in the journey to end the AIDS epidemic. Time is running out.”
Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS, noted in the report’s foreword that there had been great progress in reducing deaths from AIDS and in getting a record number of people worldwide into treatment with antiretroviral drugs.
The report said an estimated 21.7 million of the 37 million people who have the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS were on treatment in 2017, five and a half times more than a decade ago.
This rapid and sustained increase in people getting treatment helped drive a 34 percent drop in AIDS-related deaths from 2010 to 2017. AIDS deaths in 2017 were the lowest this century, at fewer than a million people, the report said.
But Sidibe also pointed to what he said were “crisis” situations in preventing the spread of HIV, and in securing sustained funding.
“The success in saving lives has not been matched with equal success in reducing new HIV infections,” he said. “New HIV infections are not falling fast enough. HIV prevention services are not being provided on an adequate scale ... and are not reaching the people who need them the most.”
Sidibe said a failure to halt new infections among children was a big worry.
“I am distressed by the fact that in 2017, 180,000 children became infected with HIV, far from the 2018 target of eliminating new HIV infections among children,” he wrote.
Data in the report showed that overall among adults and children worldwide, some 1.8 million people became newly infected with HIV in 2017.
Since the start of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, more than 77 million people have become infected with HIV. Almost half of them — 35.4 million — have died of AIDS.
The report said that at the end of 2017, $21.3 billion was available for the AIDS response in low- and middle-income countries. More than half of that came from domestic funding sources rather than international donors. UNAIDS estimates that $26.2 billion will be needed to fund the AIDS fight in 2020.
“There is a funding crisis,” Sidibe said. While global AIDS resources rose in 2017, there was still a 20 percent shortfall between what is needed and what is available.
Such a shortfall will be “catastrophic” for countries that rely on international assistance to fight AIDS, Sidibe said.


Blankets, bed-sharing common in accidental baby suffocations

In this March 22, 2012 file photo, a doctor demonstrates how an infant can die due to unsafe sleeping practices using a scene re-enactment doll in Norfolk, Va. (AP)
Updated 22 April 2019
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Blankets, bed-sharing common in accidental baby suffocations

  • The authors studied 2011-2014 data from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention registry of deaths in 10 states
  • Young babies can’t easily move away from bedding or a sleeping parent; all of the study deaths were in infants younger than 8 months old

CHICAGO: Accidental suffocation is a leading cause of injury deaths in US infants and common scenarios involve blankets, bed-sharing with parents and other unsafe sleep practices, an analysis of government data found.
These deaths “are entirely preventable. That’s the most important point,” said Dr. Fern Hauck, a co-author and University of Virginia expert in infant deaths.
Among 250 suffocation deaths, roughly 70 percent involved blankets, pillows or other soft bedding that blocked infants’ airways. Half of these soft bedding-related deaths occurred in an adult bed where most babies were sleeping on their stomachs.
Almost 20 percent suffocated when someone in the bed accidentally moved against or on top of them, and about 12 percent died when their faces were wedged against a wall or mattress.
The authors studied 2011-2014 data from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention registry of deaths in 10 states. The results offer a more detailed look at death circumstances than previous studies using vital records, said lead author Alexa Erck Lambert, a CDC researcher.
The authors said anecdotal reports suggest there’s been little change in unsafe sleep practices in more recent years.
“It is very, very distressing that in the US we’re just seeing this resistance, or persistence of these high numbers,” Hauck said.
The study was published Monday in Pediatrics.
For years, the US government and the American Academy of Pediatrics have waged safe-sleep campaigns aimed at preventing accidental infant suffocations and strangulations and sudden infant death syndrome. These include “back to sleep” advice promoting having babies sleep on their backs, which experts believe contributed to a decline in SIDS deaths over nearly 30 years. But bed-sharing has increased, along with bed-related accidental suffocations — from 6 deaths per 100,000 infants in 1999 to 23 per 100,000 in 2015, the researchers note.
Dr. Rachel Moon, a University of Virginia pediatrics professor not involved in the study, said the results are not surprising.
“Every day I talk to parents who have lost babies. They thought they were doing the right thing, and it seems safe and it seems OK, until you lose a baby,” Moon said.
Some studies have found bed-sharing increases breastfeeding and it’s common in some families because of cultural traditions. Others simply can’t afford a crib.
Erika Moulton, a stay-at-home mom in suburban New York, said bed-sharing was the only way her son, Hugo, would sleep as a newborn. Moulton struggled with getting enough sleep herself for months, and while she knew doctors advise against it, bed-sharing seemed like the only option.
Now 14 months old, “he’s still in our bed,” she said. “Trying to transition him out is a little difficult.”
The pediatricians group recommends that infants sleep on firm mattresses in their own cribs or bassinets but in their parents’ room for the first year. A tight-fitting top sheet is the only crib bedding recommended, to avoid suffocation or strangulation.
Young babies can’t easily move away from bedding or a sleeping parent; all of the study deaths were in infants younger than 8 months old.