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With Drug Resistant AIDS on Rise, Health Advocates Call for Continued Vigilance

Lancet study shows growing concern for strains resistant to treatment as global conference kicks off

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Common Dreams staff

Activists rallied on the streets of Washington DC at the opening of the 19th International AIDS Conference. (AFP)

A Lancet study released over the weekend, backed by data from the World Health Organization, shows that strains of HIV/AIDS that exhibit resistance to prominent treatments are on the rise.

The findings, which took a global perspective of resistant strains of the virus, were released ahead of the global AIDS conference that began in Washington, DC on Monday and bolstered calls by patient advocates, researchers, scientists, and public health experts for governments to work harder and invest more money in fighting the disease.

"We must resolve together never to go backwards," said Dr Elly Katabira, president of the International AIDS Society, at the opening session of the International AIDS Conference on Sunday.

The Lancet study, conducted by Silvia Bertagnolio from the UN's World Health Organisation and Ravindra Gupta at University College London, found the most troubling results in sub-Saharan Africa where the virus showed the highest rates of resistance.

"Without continued and increased national and international efforts, rising HIV drug resistance could jeopardize a decade-long trend of decreasing HIV/AIDS-related illness and death in low- and middle-income countries," they said.

"The nightmare is that -- as with bacteria which become resistant to antibiotics -- strains of HIV will emerge that will blunt the armoury of antiretrovirals, leaving millions defenceless," read a review of the report by Agence France-Presse.

According to a facts cited by Al-Jazeera, there are 34.2 million people currently living with HIV, and while infections are dropping slowly, 2.5 million are still infected every year.

In 2011, about eight million badly infected people in poorer countries had access to HIV-suppressing drugs, a figure 26 times greater than the number in 2003 but still only just over half of those in need.

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