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On World AIDS Day, infection rates are declining, but dwindling funds threaten progress

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Denis Farrell/AP

(Read caption) A wall mural in downtown Johannesburg shows a city skyline with an AIDS ribbon passing through workers who make a living in the town. The UN report says the global AIDS epidemic has slowed and cited a drop in new HIV infections with South Africa infection rate reduced by more than 25 percent in the past decade.

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This year on World AIDS Day, we’re likely to hear more of the bad news than the good. This is normal. One doesn’t call a fire department to report the 99 houses that are perfectly fine, but rather the one that is burning. Still, when it comes to the current state of the AIDS epidemic, the truth may be found in the balance between the two extremes.

First, the good news.

After several decades of explosive growth, particularly in Africa, there are signs that the AIDS epidemic is slowing. Over the past decade, new HIV infections have decreased by 20 percent, according to UNAIDS, the United Nations AIDS agency.

Here in South Africa – the country with the world’s highest number of people living with HIV, at 5.6 million – the drop in new infections is 25 percent. What this means is that all that money spent on education about condom use, abstention from sexual behavior, and being faithful to one’s partner seems to be working.

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