This dire warning was made by Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of the UN Joint Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) shortly before the high level meeting, which begins today (8 June) in New York.
“Despite remarkable progress, if we accept the status quo unchanged, the epidemic will rebound in several low- and middle-income countries,” warned Sidibe.
“More people will acquire HIV and die from AIDS-related illness in 2030 than in 2015. Treatment costs will rise sharply. Failure to control the AIDS epidemic will undermine efforts to end tuberculosis and reduce rates of maternal and child mortality, hepatitis C and cervical cancer. Our tremendous investment, and the world’s most inspiring movement for the right to health, will have been in vain.”
Failing people most in need
Sidibe describes the next five years as critical, as less than half of the 36.7 million people living with HIV are on antiretroviral treatment.
“We are failing to reach the people most in need. These include adolescent girls and young women, sex workers, gay men and other men who have sex with men, transgender people, prisoners and people who inject drugs,” said Sidibe.
In 2015, 2.1 million more people were infected with HIV and 1.1 million people from AIDS-related illnesses.
South Africa has reduced the number of new HIV infections from 600 000 in 2000 to 340 000 in 2014.
“But as world leaders grapple with a growing number of global concerns and threats, including massive displacement, climate change and an uncertain economic outlook—it would be a misstep to let up on the response to HIV,” added Sidibe.
“AIDS-related illnesses are the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age globally and the primary cause of death among adolescents in Africa.”
In his report to the meeting, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said access to ARV treatment for children is “appallingly low, with coverage ranging from 54 per cent in Latin America to 15 per cent in the Middle East and North Africa in 2014”.
Ban Ki Moon also said international donors’ decision to withdraw support for middle-income countries by 2017 would have a negative impact on HIV prevention as “58 per cent of people living with HIV residing in middle-income countries (MIC)”.
South Africa, classified as a MIC, has the largest HIV positive population in the world.
“While governments are increasing domestic funding to AIDS responses, that increase does not often include increased investment in advocacy, human rights or programmes focused on key populations.”
Meanwhile, Section27 Director Mark Heywood believes that while access to ARV was critical, getting more healthworkers into the sector is even more important.
“ Unless we can put properly trained, properly paid health workers into well functioning public health systems, the mid-term future of the response to HIV, and with it millions of lives, looks bleak,” said Heywood, writing in the Daily Maverick.
“To continue the prescription of medicines to 15-million people already on treatment and to add another 20-million people requires strong public health systems. Without enough doctors or nurses, lay counsellors or community health workers, there are no health systems.” – Health-e News.