At the Italian launch of the AIDS Epidemic Update 2005 today, UNAIDS, WFP and the Italian Government underlined the crucial role of prevention and good nutrition in the fight against AIDS, particularly in Africa.
According to WFP, with AIDS and hunger stalking millions of Africans, evidence is emerging that in addition to prevention programmes, adequate food, good nutrition and education can help stop the spread of AIDS, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of lives.
Highest level ever
Sustained prevention programmes can reduce the number of people newly infected with HIV, but the epidemic is still growing rapidly across Africa
Paul De Lay, Director of Evaluation for UNAIDS
The UNAIDS report, released today in advance of World AIDS Day (1 December 2005) noted that the number of people with HIV has reached its highest level ever, with 40.3 million adults and children now infected.
“The Italian Government is one of the most generous donors to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria – we believe that AIDS can be conquered and that all efforts to prevent it from spreading are vital,” said Hon. Alberto Michelini, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s personal representative for the G8 “Action Plan for Africa”.
Epidemic still growing
Paul De Lay, Director of Evaluation for UNAIDS, said: “We have seen in a few countries, like Kenya, that sustained prevention programmes can reduce the number of people newly infected with HIV, but the epidemic is still growing rapidly across Africa.”
In Kenya, the percentage of adults who are HIV positive dropped from 10 percent in the late 1990s to seven percent in 2003. In Zimbabwe, HIV rates among pregnant women dropped from 26 percent in 2003 to 21 percent in 2004.
Giving children a meal at school and food to take home for their families can triple enrolment rates – keeping kids in school and HIV free
Sheila Sisulu, Deputy Executive Director, WFP
Despite these encouraging signs, worldwide 5 million people contracted HIV in 2005 and 3.1 million died from AIDS-related illnesses.
Most of the new infections – some 64 percent – were in sub-Saharan Africa, where 25.8 million adults and children are HIV positive.
Globally, 570,000 children under age 15 died from AIDS-related conditions, and 700,000 contracted the virus.
Vital role of food
Sheila Sisulu, Deputy Executive Director of WFP, pointed out the vital role that food and education play in combating AIDS.
“Recent studies have shown that young people with little or no education are twice as likely to contract HIV. The World Food Programme knows that giving children a meal at school, and food to take home for their families can triple enrolment rates – keeping kids in school and HIV free.”
The report states that one million people are now living longer because they receive antiretroviral treatment. Good nutrition is essential for this treatment to be effective.