By Haruna Gimba
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) has issued a stark wake-up call to countries in a new report, launched on Wednesday in Paris, France, at an event co-hosted with Coalition PLUS, the UNAIDS warns that the global response to HIV is at a precarious point.
At the halfway point to the 2020 targets, the report, Miles to go – closing gaps, breaking barriers, righting injustices, warns that the pace of progress is not matching global ambition.
In a statement issued to newsmen, UNAIDS called for an immediate action to put the world on course to reach critical 2020 targets. “New HIV infections are rising in around 50 countries, AIDS-related deaths are not falling fast enough and flat resources are threatening success. Half of all new HIV infections are among key populations and their partners, who are still not getting the services they need.”
Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé, said they are sounding the alarm because entire regions are falling behind. “The huge gains we made for children are not being sustained, women are still most affected, resources are still not matching political commitments and key populations continue to be ignored. All these elements are halting progress and urgently need to be addressed head-on,” he said.
According to a report, global new HIV infections have declined by just 18 per cent in the past seven years, from 2.2 million in 2010 to 1.8 million in 2017. Although this is nearly half the number of new infections compared to the peak in 1996 (3.4 million), the decline is not quick enough to reach the target of fewer than 500 000 by 2020.
The report added that due to the impact of antiretroviral therapy roll-out, the number of AIDS-related deaths is the lowest this century (940 000), having dropped below 1 million for the first time in 2016. Yet, the current pace of decline is not fast enough to reach the 2020 target of fewer than 500 000 AIDS-related deaths.
However, the West and Central Africa are lagging behind with just 26 per cent of children and 41 per cent of adults living with HIV had access to treatment in western and central Africa in 2017, compared to 59 per cent of children and 66 per cent of adults in eastern and southern Africa.
The report stated that since 2010, AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 24 per cent in western and central Africa, compared to a 42 per cent decline in eastern and southern Africa. Nigeria has more than half (51%) of the HIV burden in the region and there has been little progress in reducing new HIV infections in recent years.
New HIV infections declined by only 5% (9000) in seven years (from 179 000 to 170 000) and only one in three people living with HIV is on treatment (33%), although HIV treatment coverage has increased from just 24% two years ago.
The report shows that the gains made for children are not being sustained. New HIV infections among children have declined by only 8% in the past two years, only half (52%) of all children living with HIV are getting treatment and 110 000 children died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2017.
“One child becoming infected with HIV or one child dying of AIDS is one too many. Therefore, ending the AIDS epidemic is not a foregone conclusion and the world needs to heed this wake-up call and kick-start an acceleration plan to reach the targets,” Mr Sidibé said.