Monday, 6 June 2016
Ending AIDS by 2030
By Michel Sidibé and Isaac Adewole
The AIDS epidemic has defined the global health agenda for an entire generation. The first AIDS-related deaths were diagnosed 35 years ago and HIV rapidly became a global crisis. The epidemic threatened all countries and had the power to destabilise the most vulnerable. By 2000, AIDS had wiped out decades of development gains.
Today, many nations have taken great steps in getting ahead of the virus. Nigeria, for example, has reduced the number of new HIV infections from 240, 000 in year 2010 to 190,000 in 2015. Estimated AIDS related deaths in the country declined from 160,000 in 2010 to 148,000 in 2015 while new infections among children declined by 20% between 2010 and 2015. HIV prevalence among pregnant women also has declined by 48.3% from 2001 to 2014.
Life expectancy has risen in many of the most severely affected countries in sub-Saharan Africa as access to antiretroviral medicines has expanded and testing and prevention services have been scaled up. Worldwide, there are now more than 17 million people living with HIV accessing antiretroviral medicines.
But as world leaders grapple with a growing number of global concerns and threats, including terrorism, massive displacement, climate change and an uncertain economic outlook – it would be a misstep to let up on the response to AIDS. Here are three reasons why AIDS deserves continued attention:
1. To restore dignity, health and hope to the people left behind in the AIDS response;
2. To build robust and resilient societies ready to face future health crises ; and
3. To serve as a beacon for what can be achieved through international solidarity and political will
Our generation has been presented with an opportunity that must not be thrown away. We have the technology, medicines and tools to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, avoiding more than 17 million new HIV infections and saving almost 11 million lives.
But it won’t happen without sustained commitment, vision and leadership. There are major gaps in the AIDS response and many barriers still stop people accessing quality health care services.
Still around half of the 37 million people living with HIV do not know they have the virus. 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. Stigma and discrimination too often stop people accessing health care, including HIV prevention and treatment services that reduce new infections and save lives. In some regions of the world, the numbers of HIV infections are actually increasing.
This week, leaders will gather at the United Nations in New York to agree a new Political Declaration on Ending AIDS. A key element will be creating the conditions necessary to achieve the UNAIDS 90-90-90 treatment target by 2020. This calls for 90% of people living with HIV to know their status, 90% of people who know their HIV positive status to access antiretroviral treatment and 90% of people on treatment to have suppressed viral loads.
Meeting this treatment target will set the world on course to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. But bold leadership and stronger investment are required. By 2020, combined domestic and international resources will need to increase by about one-third to peak at an estimated US$ 26.2 billion to reach this target and realise the vision of ending AIDS. A lack of investment now will result in the epidemic being prolonged indefinitely and that would be a false economy.
Ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 is a central part of achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the development agenda that world leaders signed up to last September. In New York this week, global leaders must underpin this generation’s commitment to ending AIDS and deliver on their pledge to ensure healthy lives for all. AIDS is not over yet but it can be.
Michel Sidibé is the UNAIDS Executive Director and Under Secretary General of the United Nations.
Prof. Isaac Adewole is the Minister of Health, Federal Republic of Nigeria