Despite many challenges there is a path to end AIDS by 2030 if countries prove that there is a political and financial choice, said a new global report ‘The Path that ends AIDS’ launched on Thursday by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
“The data in this report shows that ‘The Path that ends AIDS’ is not a mystery, but it is a choice. It is a political and a financial choice,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS when briefing reporters at the United Nations in Geneva.
‘The Path that Ends AIDS’ highlights that HIV responses succeed when they are anchored in strong political leadership. This means following the data, science, and evidence; tackling the inequalities holding back progress; enabling communities and civil society organizations in their vital role in the response; and ensuring sufficient and sustainable funding.
Progress has been strongest in the countries and regions that have the most financial investments, such as in eastern and southern Africa where new HIV infections have been reduced.
“Eastern and southern Africa is also the region where resources have been well deployed and we see that there, since 2010 to now, new infections have been reduced by 57 per cent” said the UNAIDS Executive Director. “It’s the region with the sharpest decline in new infections.”
Thanks to support for and investment in ending AIDS among children, 82 per cent of pregnant and breastfeeding women living with HIV globally were accessing antiretroviral treatment in 2022, up from 46 per cent in 2010. This has led to a 58 per cent reduction in new HIV infections among children from 2010 to 2022, the lowest number since the 1980’s.
“20.8 million people, or rather 20.8 million lives, have been saved through antiretroviral therapy since 2000. The number of people on treatment worldwide has risen four times since 2010, from 7.7 million to 29.8 million in 2022,” said Ms. Byanyima.
However, the report also sets out that ending AIDS will not come automatically. When leaders ignore, isolate and criminalize people living with or at risk of HIV, progress in the AIDS response is obstructed.
According to Ms. Byanyima, “in 2022, AIDS claimed a life every minute. It’s still a killer and sometimes the number one killer in some countries, such as Mozambique.” She added that “our data shows that treatment services are still missing 9.2 million people; we still have to find those and get them on treatment. 9.2 million people living with HIV are not on treatment and that includes 660’000 children,” said the UNAIDS Executive Director. “Every single week, 4,000 adolescent girls and young women were newly infected. 3,100 of those are from Sub-Saharan Africa. So, it’s a Sub-Saharan crisis.”
Almost one quarter of new HIV infections were in Asia and the Pacific where new infections are rising alarmingly in some countries.
Steep increases in new infections are continuing in eastern Europe and central Asia (a rise of almost 50 per cent since 2010) and in the Middle East and North Africa with an increase of 60 per cent since 2010. According to the report, these trends are due primarily to a lack of HIV prevention services for marginalized and key populations and the barriers posed by punitive laws and social discrimination.
In 2022, an estimated 39 million people globally were living with HIV and 630, 000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses