The Fight Against HIV/AIDS Makes Gains, But Severe Global Health Problems Persist

A UN AIDS report released this week actually had good news to share: The rate of new HIV cases amongst children in seven Sub-Saharan countries has been cut in half, while a number of other African nations have also made significant reductions in the rate of infection. While these figures represent remarkable progress, people across the world continue to face a number of grave public health problems. Here's an update on five of the most pressing global health issues: AIDS/HIV, the clean water crisis, malaria, family planning, and violence against women.

Rate of New HIV Infections Among Kids Reduced by Half in Seven Countries

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A UN AIDS report released this week actually had good news to share: The rate of new HIV cases amongst children in seven Sub-Saharan countries has been cut in half, while a number of other African nations have also made significant reductions in the rate of infection. While these figures represent remarkable progress, people across the world continue to face a number of grave public health problems. Here's an update on five of the most pressing global health issues: AIDS/HIV, the clean water crisis, malaria, family planning, and violence against women.

HIV/AIDS

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For years, eradicating the global HIV/AIDS epidemic seemed like an impossible goal. Bu the massive investments in improved access to treatment and prevention over the last few years have finally begun to pay off. According to UN AIDS UN AIDS, the number of AIDS-related deaths was down to 1.7 million deaths in 2011 from 2.3 million in 2005. In 2012, Timothy Ray Brown became the first recorded patient in history to go from HIV-positive to HIV-negative, giving the world hope for a cure.

Clean Water Crisis

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According to the UN's Millennium Development Goals Report, 11 percent of the global population had no access to a safe drinking water supply in 2012. This is one issue where governments and NGOs have collaborated to make surprising improvements to infrastructure in developing countries. Still, at the current rate of improvement, 8 percent of the global population is still expected to lack access to clean water sources by 2015.

Malaria

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The worldwide investment in the elimination of malaria has increased significantly in the past decade, producing impressive results. However, the World Malaria Report 2012 shows that progress has stalled since 2010. There are still an estimated 219 million cases of malaria worldwide, resulting in about 660,000 deaths a year. Fifty countries are on track to reach the WHO's ambitious global malaria targets for 2015, but unfortunately those countries—which only accounted for about 3 percent of malaria cases worldwide—are not the ones most in need of improvement.

Family Planning

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The United Nations Population Fund estimates that 222 million women in developing countries who would like to use contraceptives to plan their families are unable to access those resources for both economic and social reasons. When women are unable to plan the number and timing of births, they not only have to worry about being able to provide for their families, but are also at an increased risk of dying during childbirth, contracting sexually transmitted infections or fistula, and losing out on educational and professional opportunities.

Violence Against Women

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The World Health Organization recently classified violence against women, which affects over one-third of women around the world, as "global health problem of epidemic proportions." They report that an astounding 38 percent of all women who are murdered each year are killed by their intimate partners. Survivors of gender violence suffer physical and mental problems that go far beneath the surface, including depression, alcohol abuse, sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancy and abortion, and low birth-weight babies.