UN: More than three million HIV infections in 2005 deepen Africa's AIDS crisis

More than three million people in Africa have been infected with the virus that causes AIDS this year, the highest in any single year, the head of the United Nations agency coordinating global efforts against the disease said Sunday.

Speaking at the opening in Nigeria of an international conference on AIDS in Africa, Peter Piot of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS or UNAIDS, said young people account for half of the new infections, leaving the continent with "an unprecedented AIDS crisis."

"AIDS continues to outstrip Africa's efforts to contain it," threatening coming generations, he said. Piot urged a rapid expansion of prevention and treatment programs across the continent.

Infections peaked at 3.2 million, the highest in any single year, said Piot.

"Our priority now must be to ensure that money and resources available for AIDS reaches those who need it most," he said.

The Dec. 4 to 9 conference is bringing together scientists, HIV/AIDS activists and political leaders to exchange ideas and forge new strategies to battle the disease.

For two days beginning Monday, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and chairman of the African Union, will host a special session to discuss options for expanding continentwide access to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs.

The AIDS conference, first held in 1986, has proved a periodic opportunity for taking stock of efforts against the disease that has killed 40 million worldwide, most of them in Africa.

Since the last conference in Nairobi, Kenya in 2003 money available to fight HIV/AIDS has tripled, the number of people on treatment has increased six-fold while two countries - Kenya and Zimbabwe - have joined Uganda among countries with declining infection rates, UN figures show, AP reported. V.A.

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