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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
GLOBAL: Millions at Risk if AIDS Focus Fades, Says Expert
Kate Kelland
February 9, 2010
Reuters (02.05.10) - Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Waning global attention to the HIV epidemic is dangerous and would allow more "waves" of the disease to arise, says a leading expert from KwaZulu-Natal University in South Africa.

"There seems to be a perception now that it has been dealt with and we can turn our attention to other issues," said Alan Whiteside, director of the university's health economics and HIV/AIDS research division. "This is most emphatically not the case in a number of parts of the world." "We don't seem to have got our head around prevention in the hyper-endemic countries," Whiteside said. "We've still got new cases occurring - and that's ridiculous, it's stupid, especially when you look ahead and see what that means in terms of the numbers of people that will need treatment. If we don't put our effort into prevention, we're likely to see more waves." Whiteside called for funding to educate and equip health workers to conduct prevention outreach efforts. Such campaigns must include information not only about AIDS itself, but on the impact of the disease on society. In addition to its personal impact, AIDS can damage the health and agriculture sectors of an economy, both crucial to bringing a country out of poverty.

AIDS is competing for world leaders' attention with conditions such as climate change and the environment, Whiteside said. But a shift in priorities endangers funding for those now receiving HIV treatment through international channels.

"At the moment, millions of Africans are on HIV/AIDS treatment courtesy of the Americans, the Global Fund, and other donors. Those treatments have to be for life, so if we see a redeployment of funding, people are simply going to die," Whiteside said.