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Experts say developing countries must emphasize HIV prevention

Experts say developing countries must emphasize HIV prevention

On Thursday health experts warned that mistakes made by industrialized nations in dealing with the AIDS epidemic could be repeated in developing countries unless HIV prevention efforts are expanded along with treatment. In a report published ahead of the International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, next month, scientists cited an unprecedented opportunity to integrate HIV prevention with treatment programs in poor countries, which have a high incidence of infections. "This is the best chance the world has had to build a comprehensive response to the global epidemic," said Helene Gayle, cochair of the Global HIV Prevention Working Group, an international panel of nearly 50 AIDS experts, which published the report. "More widespread access to treatment is likely to bring millions of people into health care settings, providing new opportunities for health care workers to deliver and reinforce HIV prevention messages. Now is the time to act, as treatment programs are being launched and expanded." As the epidemic evolved in the richer countries, governments tended to emphasize treatment rather than prevention. As HIV infection became a manageable disease with the arrival of potent drugs, complacency set in, studies have shown. Condom use declined among some populations, other risky habits resurged, and infection rates crept up again. "If you look at budgets around the world, when treatment is introduced, oftentimes it becomes increasingly the larger part of the budget, and prevention spending stays flat or even decreases," Gayle said. "Prevention and treatment should not be pitted against each other. They need to go hand in hand." (AP)

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