The United Nations AIDS agency urged increased funding for early treatment of people with HIV following an international study showing it could reduce the number of new infections through sexual transmission by 96 percent.
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe told a news conference launching a new report by UNAIDS that early treatment and prevention efforts must also be accompanied by better skills for health workers and sex education for young people.
Sidibe stressed that billions of dollars will be needed to meet the agency's vision for the future "zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths."
The report said "universal access" to drug treatment for those with HIV is achievable.
The last decade has seen a nearly 25 percent decline in new HIV infections, a reduction in AIDS-related deaths, and "unprecedented advances" in access to treatment, prevention services and care, the report said.
Sunday marks 30 years since the first AIDS cases were reported in the United States, an anniversary that fresh hope for something many had come to think was impossible: finding a cure.
One example is Timothy Ray Brown of San Francisco, the first person in the world apparently cured of AIDS. His treatment isn't practical for wide use, but there are encouraging signs that other approaches might someday lead to a cure, or at least allow some people to control HIV without needing medication every day.
"I want to pull out all the stops to go for it," though cure is still a very difficult goal, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
For now, the focus remains on preventing new infections. With recent progress on novel ways to do that and a partially effective vaccine, "we're starting to get the feel that we can really get our arms around this pandemic," Fauci said.
Nearly 30 million people have died of AIDS since the first five cases were recognized in Los Angeles in 1981. About 34 million people have HIV now, including more than 1 million in the United States.
About 2 million people die of the disease each year, mostly in poor countries that lack treatment. In the U.S. though, newly diagnosed patients have a life expectancy only a few months shorter than people without HIV. Modern drugs are much easier to take, and many patients get by on a single pill a day.
UNAIDS said that the last decade's achievements are unevenly distributed, exceedingly fragile, and fall short of global targets.
The report said more than 34 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2010 including 2.6 million who became newly infected with the virus that causes AIDS in 2009.
An estimated 6.6 million people in low- and middle-income countries were receiving antiretroviral drug treatment at the end of last year, but about 9 million eligible people in those countries were not, the report said.
According to the report, the proportion of countries conducting systematic surveillance of HIV among high-risk populations increased between 2008 and 2010: from 44 percent to 50 percent for sex workers, and from 30 percent to 36 percent for gay men. An estimated 20 percent of the 15.9 million people who inject drugs worldwide are living with HIV, the report said.
UNAIDS released the 139 page document ahead of Sunday's 30th anniversary of the first official report of what would become the HIV epidemic by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The General Assembly is holding a high-level meeting on AIDS at U.N. headquarters from June 8-10, where 20 world leaders and over 100 ministers are expected.