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The spread of the AIDS epidemic appears to have stabilized in the last year as the number of those newly diagnosed with the disease is nearing the number of those who have died as a result of the illness, a UN report released Wednesday indicates.

The 630-page report, which was commissioned by UNAIDS - Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, notes that while an estimated 3.4 million to 6.2 million people were diagnosed with AIDS in 2005, the number of AIDS victims who died ranges from 2.4 million to 3.3 million.

Using data which was submitted by 126 of 191 members states, the UN says that an estimated 38.6 million people are currently living with the HIV virus.

The world body credits the five-fold increase in financial resources which have been geared towards raising awareness of the global epidemic. Last year, the UN counted $8.3 billion at its disposal for its AIDS reponse campaign, a sum which represents more than five times the amount of money available in 2001.

The UN credits governments in developing countries who regarding combating the illness as a national goal, thus contributing to the encouraging global trend.

AIDS awareness campaigns in forty developing countries are being managed under the personal auspices of heads of government or their deputies, the study notes.

The report, however, also noted increases in the number of AIDS cases in three areas of the world which have been particularly hard-hit: Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, and eastern Europe.