UN reports progress in fight against HIV/AIDS

UNAIDS says pandemic is spreading unevenly and a new approach that targets areas and at-risk groups is now needed.

UNAIDS reports a 33 percent reduction in new infections among adults and children since 2001 [EPA]

A new report released by the UNAIDS says that efforts to stem the growth of HIV/AIDS across the planet has seen “accelerated progress”, despite evidence that the pandemic was still growing unevenly across the globe.  

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said on Wednesday that improved access to treatment was saving more lives, and fewer incidences of new infections were being reported, but urgent intervention was still needed in certain parts of the globe to eradicate the pandemic.

The report, titled Location, Location argues that the next stage in addressing the global pandemic ought to focus on specific locations and key populations at a higher risk of HIV exposure. Furthermore, that improved national or international trends had the danger of masking areas in need of urgent intervention. 

“Every person counts,”Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS, said.

“If we are going to keep our pledge of leaving no one behind – we have to make sure HIV services reach everyone in need”.

Since 2006, new infections have increased by 13 percent across Eastern Europe and Central Asia, while the Middle East and North Africa has seen a doubling of new HIV infections since 2001.

Johnny Tohme, a social worker from the MARSA Sexual Health Clinic in Beirut, told Al Jazeera that stigma remained one of the stumbling blocks in addressing the HIV pandemic in the Middle East

“There is [also] no sexual education in the region … and people are afraid to reveal their behaviour.
“It has been proved that a holistic approach can lead to a solution, but it is not just about the availability of medication; it is about having the ability to go and ask for it without feeling stigmatised,” Tohme said.

Gains worldwide

But the UN also said that the gains of the past decade did suggest that the pandemic could be overcome.

Among the gains reported by UNAIDS, include a 33 percent reduction in new infections among adults and children since 2001.

“New HIV infections among children have been reduced to 260,000 in 2012, a reduction of 52 percent since 2001. AIDS-related deaths have also dropped by 30 percent since the peak in 2005 as access to antiretroviral treatment expands.”

UNAIDS did note however, that many gaps in funding and even access to those in need still existed. For instance, in priority countries, only three in 10 children currently received HIV treatment.

“We have seen tremendous political commitment and results to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV – but we are failing the children who become infected,” UNAIDS’ Sidibé said.

“We urgently need better diagnostic tools and child-friendly medicines – irrespective of the market size.”

In 2012, there were an estimated 35.3 million people living with HIV around the world.

In recent years, low and middle-income countries have significantly increased domestic investments for HIV, accounting for 53 percent of all HIV related spending by 2012. 

Source: Al Jazeera