PARIS, Nov. 30 (Xinhua) -- The UNESCO director-general on Monday said the HIV epidemic continues to be a major global challenge and called on the international community to redouble efforts to battle the disease.
Irina Bokova, speaking on World AIDS Day, said in a statement that the number of people receiving antiretroviral treatment in low- and middle- income countries totaled 4 million by December 2008. That, Bokova said, represents an increase of 1 million from the previous year.
"More people were counseled and tested for HIV in 2008 than in previous years," she said. "Almost half of all pregnant women living with HIV in low and middle income countries received antiretrovirals to prevent mother-to-child transmission, and more children living with HIV are benefiting from treatment and care programs than ever before."
Bokova noted that though the AIDS response has gained important progress, people must not forget that there still are 33 million people living with HIV and 2.7 million new infections in 2007.
"Over 5 million people need antiretroviral therapy in low and middle income countries. HIV epidemic continues to be a major global challenge."
Bokova stressed that people must redouble their efforts in the context of the global economic crisis to maintain the gains achieved in recent years.
She called for cooperation within a framework of respect for human rights as a cornerstone of effective and equitable national responses to ensure genuine multisectoral responses to the AIDS epidemic.
"I am fully committed that UNESCO will continue to address the social and structural factors that fuel the epidemic, including gender inequality and stigma and discrimination," she said. "We must build on our strengths, and move forward in concert with our partners."