Last week, based upon improved statistical sampling, the UN downward revised its estimates of the number of persons with HIV/AIDS. The New York Times picks up on a more important finding that stems from the correction:
Ignore the fuss over the news last week — the United Nations’ AIDS-fighting agency admits to overestimating the global epidemic by six million people. That was a sampling error, an epidemiologist’s Dewey Defeats Truman.
Look instead at the fact that glares out from the Orwellian but necessary revision of the figures for earlier years. There it is, starkly: AIDS has peaked.
New infections reached a high point in the late 1990’s — by the best estimate, in 1998.
However, it is not time to relax:
More than three million annual new infections in 1998, or an estimated 2.5 million for 2007, “is not a particularly happy plateau,” said Dr. Robert Gallo, a discoverer of the AIDS virus.
Dr. Mark R. Dybul, the Bush administration’s global AIDS coordinator, added: “I don’t think it radically shifts our thinking, at least not for 5 to 10 years. We still need to prevent 2.5 million infections, we still need to prevent 2.1 million a year from dying.”
Some other disturbing observations:
It’s still not clear why southern Africa was hit the hardest. There are theories — migratory mine labor, less circumcision, perhaps a still-undiscovered genetic susceptibility.
But the southern Africa explosion has not repeated itself as the virus moved on into Asia’s much greater populations. It has hit very susceptible pockets, like the red light district of Calcutta, but seems to have stalled in them.
[The disease] can also lull its hosts into acting foolishly again; that has happened in San Francisco and Germany, Dr. [Paul] De Lay [director of monitoring and policy for Unaids] noted, where new infections are ticking up again as young gay men revive the bar scene of the 1980’s.
The Anglican Communion News Service has several posts today on the initiatives of the Anglican Communion in the battle against AIDS:
- Archbishop of Canterbury’s video message for World Aids Day – The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has said that churches need to be brave, imaginative and honest in the fight against the spread of HIV and Aids.In a message for World Aids Day [Saturday 1st December], issued for the first time as a video available on the internet, Dr Williams said churches are actively engaged in the global response to HIV and described as ‘a scandal’ the limited access to drugs and treatment in deprived parts of the world.
- Anglicans Working Together on AIDS – A Cathedral where people can come to be voluntarily tested for HIV, hospitals offering antiretroviral therapy, home-based care to help with adherence to medication regimes, youth groups offering support and prevention education, palliative care and practical help to those living with HIV. These are all part of the Anglican response to HIV & AIDS which is described in a new report.
- Communities increasingly seek Mothers’ Union for HIV/AIDS care -Community groups, even governments, are increasingly turning to Mothers’ Union worldwide to provide grassroots HIV/AIDS awareness, education, home-care, anti-stigma campaigns and HIV status-related poverty issues.