HIV rates reach historic low in children

Woman and her child attend a talk on sexual and domestic violence and HIV/AIDS prevention in Lome
A woman and her child attend a talk on sexual and domestic violence and HIV/AIDS prevention organised by the local chamber of professional workers and the...

The overall rate of HIV infections in children and adults fell significantly during the last decade, hitting a historic low in adolescents last year, according to a new report released Monday.

About 260,000 children were affected by the AIDS-causing virus in 2012, a 52% drop since 2001, the UNAIDS report found. In addition, the combined rate in children and adults fell to 2.3 million new infections, a 33% reduction during the same time period.

"We are beginning to see true impact on the scaling of interventions over the last decade," Mitchell Warren, executive director of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, told MSNBC. "Frankly it's essential news because over that decade we have seen an explosion in funding and investing."

A decade ago the world invested less than a billion dollars toward HIV prevention, but now about $16 billion is being spent.

The report cited a worldwide expansion of access to preventative treatments as a reason for the decline. Almost 20% more people living in low- and middle-income countries accessed therapy from 2011 to 2012. But the data must be used strategically; there isn't one single intervention that can halt the epidemic, Warren said.

More than 30 million people around the world are affected by HIV. Southern Africa continues to experience the highest rates, followed by the country's central and eastern regions.

"We have made great advancements in increasing the funding, the investments, and we're beginning to understand better how to make different interventions work," Warren said. "We need to deliver more of that to more people in different places."

The United Nations aims to end the spread of HIV/AIDS and reach universal treatment for 15 million people by 2015, one of eight Millennium Development Goals. World leaders also hope to cut global poverty in half, improve maternal health, ensure environmental stability, achieve universal primary education, reduce child mortality, promote gender equality, and reach a global partnership for development.

Beginning this week through the first days of October, the UN general assembly will meet in New York to discuss current global progress and future priorities.

"If we don't continue the investment, we will see a decline in progress," Warren said. "There might be reason to be happy about some of the data today, [but] we have to be vigilant. This is not even close to the end of the epidemic."