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Number of new AIDS cases leveling off

LONDON -- The AIDS epidemic is leveling off and the number of people newly infected with the virus that causes it has remained unchanged since 2007, the UN said in a report Monday.

Critics say that the UN's aim of wiping out the disease is overly optimistic, however, considering there is no vaccine, millions remain untreated and donations have slumped amid the economic crisis.

There were 2.7 million new HIV infections last year, about the same as in the three previous years, said the report from UNAIDS, the joint United Nations program on HIV and AIDS. The figures largely confirm earlier findings released by the group in June.

At the end of 2010, there were 34 million people with HIV. That's a slight rise from previous years, but experts say that's due to people surviving longer. Last year, there were 1.8 million AIDS-related deaths, down from 1.9 million in 2009.

Southern Africa is still the hardest hit, but the virus is also surging elsewhere, the UN said. -- AP

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