GENEVA, Nov 20, 2012 (AFP) - Deaths from HIV/AIDS have fallen sharply in sub-Saharan Africa in recent years, with particular progress made on protecting children from the deadly virus, the UN said Tuesday.
"Between 2005 and 2011, the number of people dying from AIDS-related causes in sub-Saharan Africa declined by 32 percent, from 1.8 million to 1.2 million," the UN's programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said in its annual report on the state of the global pandemic.
The number of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa, which remains the epicentre of the crisis, meanwhile plunged 25 percent over 10 years, from 2.4 million in 2001 to 1.8 million last year, according to the report published ahead of World AIDS Day on December 1.
Despite the progress made to bring down the infection rate in the region, sub-Saharan Africa still counts 23.5 million people living with HIV, or 69 percent of the global total, according to the report.
Women are disproportionately affected, accounting for 58 percent of all HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa, and, alarmingly, 92 percent of all pregnant women in the world who live with the virus were in the region.
Yet particular progress had been made in bringing down the number of children newly infected with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa -- a region that today is home to 90 percent of the world's infected youngsters, UNAIDS said.
Between 2009 and 2011, the number of children in the region infected with the virus that causes AIDS dropped 24 percent, with a number of countries, including Kenya and South Africa, seeing falls of between 40 and 59 percent.
However, 11 countries in the region saw far more modest declines, while the number of new infections among children rose in four countries: Angola, Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.
UNAIDS, which spearheads the international fight against AIDS, said that low and middle-income countries in the region had increased their HIV prevention investment by 15 percent from 2010 to 2011.
In 21 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, external funding sources account for more than 50 percent of HIV investments, while other countries including South Africa and Botswana provided more than 75 percent of their own expenditure, UNAIDS said.