Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - A new report on the 'Global HIV/AIDS Response' has shown an unparalleled global progress in both preventing and treating HIV, and emphasizes the benefits of sustaining investment in HIV/AIDS over the longer term.
The latest report by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and UNAIDS, obtained by PANA here, indicates that increased access to HIV services resulted in a 15% reduction of new infections over the past decade and a 22% decline in AIDS-related deaths in the last five years.
Highlights of the progress include: Improved access to HIV testing services enabled 61% of pregnant women in eastern and southern Africa to receive testing and counseling for HIV - up from 14% in 2005; Close to half (48%) of pregnant women in need receive effective medicines to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) in 2010, and antiretroviral therapy (ART), which not only improves the health and well-being of the infected people but also stops further HIV transmission, is available now for 6.65 million people in low- and middle-income countries, accounting for 47% of the 14.2 million people eligible to receive it.
"It has taken the world ten years to achieve this level of momentum," says Gottfried Hirnschall, Director of WHO's HIV Department. "There is now a very real possibility of getting ahead of the epidemic. But this can only be achieved by both sustaining and accelerating this momentum over the next decade and beyond."
Advances in HIV science and programme innovations over the past year add hope for future progress. In times of economic austerity, it will be essential to rapidly apply new science, technologies and approaches to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of HIV programmes in countries.
When people are healthier, they are better able to cope financially. The report acknowledges that investment in HIV services could lead to total gains of up to US$34 billion by 2020 in increased economic activity and productivity, more than offsetting the costs of ART programmes.
“2011 has been a game changing year. With new science, unprecedented political leadership and continued progress in the AIDS response, countries have a window of opportunity to seize this momentum and take their responses to the next level,” said Paul De Lay, Deputy
Executive Director, Programme, UNAIDS. “By investing wisely, countries can increase efficiencies, reduce costs and improve on results. However, gains made to date are being threatened by a decline in resources for AIDS.”
The report also points to what still needs to be done: More than half of the people who need antiretroviral therapy in low- and middle-income countries are still unable to access it. Many of them do not even know that they have HIV.
Despite the growing body of evidence as to what countries need to focus on to make a real impact on their epidemics, some are still not tailoring their programmes for those who are most at risk and in need. In many cases, groups including adolescent girls, people who inject drugs,
men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, prisoners and migrants remain unable to access HIV prevention and treatment services.
According to the report, worldwide, the vast majority (64%) of people aged 15-24 living with HIV today are female. The rate is even higher in sub-Saharan Africa where girls and young women make up 71% of all young people living with HIV - essentially because prevention strategies are
not reaching them.
Key populations are continually marginalized. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, more than 60% of those living with HIV are people who inject drugs. But injecting drug users account for only 22% of those receiving ART.
Although better services to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV have averted some 350,000 new infections among children, some 3.4 million children are living with HIV - many of whom lack HIV treatment. Only about one in four children in need of HIV treatment in low- and middle-income countries received it in 2010, as compared to 1 in 2 adults.
“While there have been gains in treatment, care and support available to adults, we note that progress for children is slower,” says Leila Pakkala, Director of the UNICEF Office in Geneva. “The coverage of HIV interventions for children remains alarmingly low. Through concerted action and equity-focused strategies, we must make sure that global efforts are working for children as well as adults”.
-0- PANA SEG 1Dec2011