updated 7/23/2007 10:41:02 AM ET 2007-07-23T14:41:02

Access to life-extending HIV/AIDS drugs in developing countries has improved during the past three years, but new infections still dramatically outpace efforts to bring treatment to patients, health officials said Monday.

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Three years ago, fewer than 300,000 people in the developing world were receiving the anti-retroviral drugs that help treat the virus. Last year, 2.2 million people in developing countries received the drugs, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

"However, for every one person that you put in therapy, six new people get infected. So we're losing that game, the numbers game," Fauci told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

In many parts of the developing world where the HIV/AIDS epidemic is still growing exponentially, effective prevention strategies — such as condom distribution, needle exchanges and basic education about the disease — reach less than 15 percent of the population.

"The proven prevention modalities are not accessible to any substantial proportion of the people who need them," said Fauci, one of the keynote speakers at the Fourth International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis and Treatment in Sydney, Australia, which runs through Wednesday.

"Although we are making major improvements in the access to drugs, clearly prevention must be addressed in a very forceful way," he added.

According to recent World Health Organization statistics, only 28 percent of the world's HIV/AIDS patients are receiving anti-retroviral drugs.

Dr. Brian Gazzard, chairman of the British HIV Association, said that while great advances have been made in extending access to anti-retrovirals, the disease is still running rampant in parts of Asia and Africa.

"The HIV epidemic is essentially uncontrolled, uncontrolled in Africa, uncontrolled completely in Asia right now," he told reporters at the conference, which has drawn 5,000 delegates from 133 countries. "The epidemic still is in an exponential growth phase ... and I think that is likely to continue."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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