New York, NY (BBN)– A new United Nations report showing significant progress in improving access to HIV/AIDS services in 37 developing countries offers realistic hope for the achievement of universal access, a UN official said on Tuesday.
Towards Universal Access, produced by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and released today, assesses progress in 144 low- and middle-income countries.

It finds that 15 countries were able to provide more than 80 per cent of HIV-positive pregnant women with the services and medicines needed to prevent mother-to-child transmission, while 14 countries provided HIV treatment to more than 80 per cent of their HIV-positive children. An additional eight countries have achieved universal access to antiretroviral treatment for adults.

The report’s findings include: 5.25 million people had access to HIV treatment in low- and middle-income countries last year, accounting for 36 per cent of those in need – an increase of more than 1.2 million people over 2008.

There was remarkable progress in Eastern and Southern Africa – the region most severely affected by HIV – where treatment coverage increased from 32 per cent to 41 per cent in one year, and half of all pregnant women were able to access HIV testing and counselling.

In sub-Saharan Africa, close to one million more people began antiretroviral treatment, resulting in 37 per cent coverage of those in need.

The rate in other regions included: Latin America and the Caribbean – 50 percent; East, South and South-East Asia – 31 percent; Europe and Central Asia – 19 percent; and North Africa and the Middle East – 11 percent.

BBN/SSR/ANS-29Sept10-1:05 am (BST)