The rate of progress of the campaign aimed at ending the global HIV/AIDS epidemic is dropping, according to a report released few days before the 10th IAS Conference on HIV Science which was held in Mexico City.
The new report by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) suggests that gains made globally so far in the fight against the dreaded conditions might be lost unless there is a greater political will to support the campaign.
Reduction in the incidence of new HIV infections appears to be dropping off. The new report has it that there were 1.7 million new infections in 2018.
People living with the virus across the globe were estimated at roughly 40 million during the year. The number of deaths linked to AIDS stood at 770,000.
While these figures show that progress is being made in the fight aimed at ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic, they also show that pace is slowing.
The latest figures are merely estimated overall averages, as one would expect in this kind of report. The intensity of the fight against the epidemic varies from one country to another. While some continue to make good progress, others are witnessing more HIV infections and more AIDS-related deaths.
Eastern and Southern Africa still play host to most people living with HIV. The region has more cases of new infections. However, the report suggests that interventions in South Africa have helped to cut new infections by around 40 percent.
Cases of new infections have risen by 29 percent in Eastern Europe and Central Asia since 2010. An increase of 10 percent was observed in the Middle East and North Africa over the same period. New infections have risen by seven percent in Latin America.
Gunilla Carlsson, UNAIDS executive director, told VOA News that North America and Western Europe have made some progress in the fight. However, the incidence of new infections and deaths still remains high in these places.
Need for Greater Funding
The UNAIDS report reveals that key populations and their sexual partners contribute significantly to new infections – they have a hand in about 54 percent of new infections globally. The activities of such people accounted for roughly 95 percent of new infections in Eastern Europe and Central Asia as well as in the Middle East and North Africa.
Key populations include sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender people, prisoners, and recreational drug users.
Inadequate funding is hindering ability to reach these key populations in a bid to prevent HIV transmission. The discrimination and stigma these people face make it difficult reaching them. According to the report, less than half of such individuals are provided with combination HIV prevention services in most countries.
Communities are quite important in the campaign to end the HIV/AIDS scourge. Their activities have led to a reduction in stigma and discrimination as well as better accessibility to HIV prevention and treatment services. But poor funding is increasing hindering community-led responses, thereby slowing progress.
Carlsson revealed that funding available to fight the scourge has dropped by almost $1 billion. The UNAIDS program currently has more than $7 billion lower than the estimated $26.2 billion it’s going to need next year, according to its executive director.
The new report finds that about 15 million people are not getting anti-retroviral therapy.
“We urgently need to increase political leadership to end AIDS,” Carlsson said. “This starts with investing adequately and smartly and by looking at what’s making some countries so successful.”
- Progress Toward Ending HIV/AIDS Epidemic Receding | Voice of America – English (https://www.voanews.com/science-health/progress-toward-ending-hivaids-epidemic-receding)
- UNAIDS calls for greater urgency as global gains slow and countries show mixed results towards 2020 HIV targets | UNAIDS (https://www.unaids.org/en/resources/presscentre/pressreleaseandstatementarchive/2019/july/20190716_PR_UNAIDS_global_report_2019)