Specialists warn that high rates of HIV along with rapid increase in population means that the next half-decade will be crucial for pulling back AIDS. Michel Sidibe, head of the UN agency UNAIDS feels that there is a small window of opportunity available in the next five years to fast track efforts to end the AIDS epidemic.
“If we don’t end it by 2030, the human and financial consequences will be catastrophic.”
Officials have urged for the disease to be given high priority in the UN’s post-2015 development goals, in a report compiled by UNAIDS and The Lancet medical journal, with the support of leading figures in the 34-year war on AIDS.
There is some light of hope with the advent in 1996 of antiretroviral drugs that suppress the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Scientists have found that although it is not a cure, the therapy creates a virtuous circle.The fewer viruses in circulation, the less likely it is that people become infected.
The report stated that “From 2001 to 2013, annual incidence of HIV infections decreased by 38 per cent, from 3.4 million in 2001 to 2.1 million in 2013.”
“From 2002 to 2013, the annual incidence of HIV infections in children decreased by 58 per cent, with 240,000 new infections in 2013 compared with 580,000 in 2002. In some parts of the world, mother-to-child transmission of HIV has been virtually eliminated.”
There was good news from South Africa, which was one of the worst-hit countries by HIV, when mean life expectancy rose in 2005 for the first time since 1997.
But the report also stated that many concerns still remain.
In 2013, 1.5 million people died of AIDS-related causes, more than 10 million infected people had yet to start HIV therapy – and out of 35 million people estimated to be living with the AIDS virus, a staggering 19 million were unaware that they had the disease.
This results in the fact that, despite the gains, the rate of HIV infections is still not falling fast enough.
Along with the increase in population and more adolescence people around in the world who have become sexually active, emphasizing the point of the objective behind eliminating AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
“We must face stark truths,” said Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Sidibe’s predecessor at the helm of UNAIDS.”Expanding sustainable access to treatment is essential, but we will not treat ourselves out of the AIDS epidemic.
“We must also reinvigorate HIV prevention efforts, particularly among populations at highest risk, while removing legal and societal discrimination.”