Our thoughts on new UNAIDS report “Together We Will End AIDS”

Are we winning the fight against HIV/AIDS? According to a UNAIDS report, Together We Will End AIDS , we’re doing ok: the number of HIV/AIDS related deaths fell from 2.3 million at its peak in 2005 to 1.7 million in 2011. In addition more people than ever, (8 million worldwide) now have access to medications that enable you to live with HIV.

But this progress is fragile and if we’re honest, is not moving fast enough. Now more than ever, we need to increase our efforts and continue to invest in programmes to combat HIV.

Many countries have stepped up to the challenge. Low-income and middle-income countries have invested more money in their own efforts to combat HIV than has been provided by international donors. In 2011, these countries invested US $8.6 billion.

But there is still a $7 billion annual gap in funding for the global AIDS response. In these tight times, the worry is that international assistance for low-income and middle-income countries could wane.

On the topic of HIV treatment, a drug known as Truvada has recently hit the headlines because it can now be used to treat HIV and to help prevent further infection. This drug could really help to hit HIV over the head and reduce the number infections, but there is a drawback. If Truvada is not taken consistently, it could lead to the development of drug-resistant forms of HIV.

Another thing to come out of the UNAIDS report is the need to tackle the social issues that drive the HIV epidemic. Even the 2012 International AIDS Conference  has had to overcome barriers that were impeding the rights of people with HIV.

This years’ conference is the first to be hosted in the USA in over 20 years. Travel restrictions in the USA meant the people with HIV could not enter the country, but the Obama administration has since lifted these restrictions.

Despite the USA relaxing theirs, there are still many countries enforcing their HIV laws  such as criminalising sex workers, men who have sex with men and drug users (groups who are at high risk of HIV infection).

But UNAIDS gives reason to be hopeful. 80% of countries currently have general non-discrimination laws and 62% of countries have laws prohibiting discrimination against people with HIV.

So, while the number of new HIV infections has steadily decreased from 3.2 million in 2001 to 2.5 million in 2011, there is no room for complacency. The UNAIDS report can be seen as a benchmark, and should spur on global efforts to fight the HIV epidemic.

As Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, warns, “If we cannot envision a world without AIDS, then we will always be dealing with its consequences”.

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