A new report by the Global HIV Prevention Working Group shows that only one fifth of the world's population that is at high risk for HIV infection has access to prevention programs, which is fueling the spread of the disease around the world. The report, titled "Access to HIV: Closing the Gap," also shows that only 5% of high-risk pregnant women have access to antiretroviral drugs to prevent passing HIV to their infants, only 12% of at-risk people have access to HIV antibody testing, only 24% of high-risk individuals have access to HIV/AIDS education, and only 42% of sexually active adults and youth have access to condoms.
"A dramatic scaling-up of HIV prevention, combined with increased access to treatment for the millions already infected, can control and ultimately reverse AIDS," said Helene Gayle, director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's global HIV/AIDS program and cochair of the working group. "What we are spending now, had we spent it a decade ago, we would have had half the number of new infections. This would have saved an estimated $90 billion in costs such as caring for AIDS patients and orphans. Either we pay now, or we pay later. This is not an epidemic that you can fix on the cheap."
The report recommends annual global spending of about $5.7 billion on HIV prevention programs but notes that only $1.9 billion was allocated to such programs in 2002. Other recommendations in the report include integrating HIV prevention and treatment programs in developing countries, improving health care infrastructures in poor nations, and focusing policy reform on such issues as stigma, poverty, and gender inequality, all of which contribute to the spread of HIV.