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The United Nations has released a report on AIDS to coincide with the UN special assembly and with the 25th anniversary of the first diagnosis of the disease. The report contains mixed news.

It says that since AIDS was recognized in 1981, 25 million people have died from the disease and another 40 million are currently living with it, 95 percent of them in developing countries. AIDS is now the leading cause of premature death among adults aged 15 to 59 in the world. By 2015, the report says that, taking into account the effect of the disease on birthrate, the world’s population will be 150 million less than it would have been without AIDS.

In 2005, 2.8 million people died from AIDS and 4.1 million were newly infected. About 15 million people in sub-Saharan Africa — six percent of the adult population, most of them women — are living with HIV or AIDS.

India now leads the world in numbers infected with 5.7 million, followed by South Africa with 5.5 million. However, that 5.7 million represents only 0.9 percent of India’s population. By contrast, one-third of all adults in Swaziland are infected. Across the world, only nine percent of pregnant women are receiving services to help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS to their babies.

The good news is that while the numbers are still horrifying, the rate of infection, while still increasing, is increasing at a slower pace. Sub-Saharan African countries like Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe have reduced the infection rate and improved access to treatment, as have Thailand and Cambodia.

Since 2001 the number of people receiving treatment in the developing world has increased to 1.3 million from from 240,000. However, that still means that only one in five people in low and even middle-income countries who need antiretroviral drugs do not have access to them.

Last year, global funding in the battle against AIDS reached $8.3US billion, meeting the target called for in the 2001 UN declaration on AIDS. The declaration passed this month calls for global funding of as much as $23US million per year by 2010, a commitment experts say falls up to $15US billion a year short.