Sixteen years after the first World AIDS Day, what have we accomplished and what are the new challenges? Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS, laid out a clear agenda for the way forward in the fight against global AIDS at the Wilson Center on November 30, 2004. U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Randall Tobias joined him in the live webcast, and provided an update on U.S. leadership in funding and enhancing the global AIDS response.

According to AIDS Epidemic Update 2004, released last week by UNAIDS and the WHO, the number of people living with HIV globally has reached its highest level with an estimated 39.4 million people, up from an estimated 36.6 million in 2002. The steepest increases in HIV infections occurred in East Asia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia over the past two years. "The number of people living with AIDS has been rising in every region of the world," said Dr. Piot. "Clearly, business as usual spells disaster. A massive effort is needed to achieve a response on a scale that matches the magnitude of the global AIDS challenge."

Ambassador Tobias reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the global AIDS fight, stating that "I think it is exactly right to expect a focus on the bottom line: in this case, providing treatment, preventing infections, providing care for those who need it. In short, the bottom line for the President's Emergency Plan is saving the lives of men, women, and children."

In East Asia, the 50% increase in HIV infections from 2002-2004 is largely attributable to growing epidemics in China, Indonesia, and Viet Nam. The 40% increase in Eastern Europe and Central Asia is mainly due to Ukraine's expanding epidemic and the growing number of people living with HIV in the Russian Federation. With an estimated 860,000 people living with HIV at the end of 2003, Russia has the largest epidemic in Europe.

This is the second meeting in a three-part, high-level briefing series, jointly sponsored by UNAIDS and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, that seeks to raise awareness of the global AIDS agenda within the U.S. foreign policy community. In January 2005, Ulf Kristoffersson, Director of Security and Humanitarian Response, UNAIDS, will speak on "Threatening Global Stability: AIDS and Security." The series will be webcast live at The first meeting, "Confronting the Crisis: Women and AIDS," featured UNAIDS Deputy Director Kathleen Cravero and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs George Moose.

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