AIDS fight falters, report says

"UNAIDS warns that progress is slowing and time is running out to reach the 2020 HIV targets".

The annual number of AIDS-related deaths has dropped below 1 million for the first time, according to a new report published by UNAIDS. However, progress is still too slow and as a result, 2020 HIV targets might not be reached. EURACTIV.fr reports.

Though the number of AIDS-related deaths has decreased in 2017, this is not enough to successfully tackle the pandemic.

The UN program on AIDS is sounding the alarm a week ahead of the 22nd International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam on 23-27 July.

The organisation recently published a report titled “Miles To Go”, in which it makes a mixed assessment of the fight against the 20th century’s biggest pandemic.

The report highlights some notable successes: three out of four people living with HIV know of their status now. The number of people on treatment now reaches 21.7 million, an additional 2.3 million have had access to treatment since 2016.

In some of the countries most affected by the pandemic, treatment of people living with HIV has made remarkable progress. In South Africa, where only a hundred of people were treated in 2001, “they are now 4.3 million [treated] today,” said Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS, during an interview on France Info.

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In eastern and southern Africa, a region that accounts for more than a half of the world’s 36.9 million people living with HIV (53%), the decline in AIDS-related deaths reached 42% between 2010 and 2017. The number of new infections has also drastically decreased with a 30% drop over the same period.

However, these improvements are not enough to put the world on course to reach the 2020 targets set by the UN.

HIV Status

UNAIDS hopes to reduce the number of AIDS-related deaths to 500.000 a year, as well as what is known as the 90-90-90 targets, 90% of people living with HIV know their status, 90% of people with HIV positive status are accessing treatment and 90% of people on treatment have suppressed viral loads (which reduces risks of transmission), by 2020.

Since 2010 and at the global level, new infections have gone down by 16%, but to reach UN targets figures should go down by 75%.

“The successes – albeit remarkable – but still limited – that we have experienced in terms of lives saved and stopping new HIV infections are dangerously opening the way to some form of complacency,” stated Sidibé.

Prevention crisis

“We are faced with a prevention crisis[…]. The number of new infections does not decline fast enough,” said Sidibé. In 2017, the number of new infections found is still high, 1.8 million people discovered their HIV positive status or around 5,000 new cases per day on average.

According to the report, prevention services are not adequately provided to reach the people who need them most.

Another difficulty lies in the funding to tackle AIDS, which still depends on international donors in a number of countries.

“We are faced with a funding crisis. I am happy that resources allocated to fighting AIDS have increased in 2017. But we should not forget that there is still a 20% deficit between necessary resources and available resources,” stated Sidibé.

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