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Good news is rare in the battle against HIV/AIDS. So when the U.N. released its 2006 report on Tuesday, most expected more of the grim statistics we have heard since the disease first surfaced 25 years ago.

But the 2006 report seems to signal a maturation of both the disease and the response to it. While the actual numbers of new infections and deaths are continuing to climb, the percentages are declining, signaling what Paul De Lay, director of evaluation at UNAIDS, called a "global slowing,"

That's about as good as it gets when talking about a disease that afflicts nearly 40 million people worldwide, with 4.1 million newly infected last year alone.

In addition, the report seemed particularly inclusive of the various groups fighting the disease, praising the President's Emergency Program for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) initiative from the Bush administration, and specifically citing churches and faith-based groups for being "among the first to deliver treatment and care."

That's in stark contrast to most international AIDS meetings, which had criticized the U.S. approach as "cultural imperialism" and worse, and openly dismissed religious groups that supported abstinence education.

In a press conference, De Lay went so far as to say that the loss of PEPFAR funds to the global effort would be "disastrous" and would result in withdrawing treatment to thousands who would certainly die without it. He was careful to praise the U.S. for playing a "major role" in making progress against HIV/AIDS.

One of the most positive points of the report was the decline of infections among young people in several African countries specifically tied to a delay in the onset of sexual activity.

Ken Casey, who heads the HIV/AIDS HOPE Initiative for World Vision ...

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