Despite all the lofty goals set by world leaders, and billions of dollars thrown into the fight to quench the global AIDS pandemic in recent years, it is discouraging to learn the world is still falling behind.

A recent update issued by the UN AIDS programme and the World Health Organisation found some encouraging signs of progress, including a drop in HIV infections in young people in eight African countries, thanks to aggressive prevention programmes. But the number of people living with the AIDS virus continued to grow, reaching a record 39.5 million in 2006; 4.3 million people became infected this year; and the number of deaths due to AIDS reached an all-time high. Most disturbingly, some countries that had been trumpeted as successes in controlling AIDS, like Uganda and Thailand, seemed to be having resurgence. As one top UN official noted, “countries are not moving at the same speed as their epidemics.”

Progress has been slowed by insufficient testing to identify people who are infected and weak public health services for delivering the drugs.

But the overriding problem may be a loss of the sense of urgency and reluctance by most governments to commit the huge resources needed to provide universal access to treatment, prevention, care and support.