A new report released this week by The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in conjunction with the biennial International AIDS Conference shows that while much progress has been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS, a lot still needs to be done to address this global pandemic. The report, called Seizing the Moment, noted that targets previously set for 2020 have largely not been reached.
AIHA’s President & CEO David Greeley commented that “while COVID19 is a tragic and devastating public health crisis that consumes the world’s attention, with close to 551,000 deaths globally as of today, it is important not to forget the toll HIV/AIDS has taken and continues to take.”
According to the new report:
· 32.7 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic
· 690 000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2019
· 75.7 million people have become infected with HIV since the start of the epidemic
· 1.7 million people became newly infected with HIV in 2019
· 38.0 million people globally were living with HIV in 2019
And while 25.4 million people were on antiretroviral therapy in 2019 (four times the number just a decade ago), 1/3 of those people with HIV are still not accessing treatment.
The UNAIDS report noted “unequal progress, with many vulnerable people and populations left behind, Around 62% of new HIV infections occurred among key populations and their sexual partners, including gay men and other men who have sex with men, sex workers, people who inject drugs and people in prison, despite them constituting a very small proportion of the general population. Stigma and discrimination, together with other social inequalities and exclusion, are proving to be key barriers.”
For several years now, AIHA has been working with “Key Populations” and “Vulnerable Groups” to address this challenge. In September 2019, AIHA was awarded a 5-year grant by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to, among other things, work with civil society groups representing Key Populations to increase their capacity to address HIV/AIDS in their communities. In the first year of the project, AIHA is implementing activities in Thailand and Laos in Southeast Asia; Zambia, Tanzania, Nigeria, and Kenya in sub-Saharan Africa; and Guatemala in Latin America.
The UNAIDS report also noted the interrelation between COVID19 and HIV/AIDS and warned against rising HIV infection rates and reduced access to treatment due to COVID and related lockdowns. AIHA has been active in the fight against COVID, assisting the Government of Ethiopia in their response with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Finally, the UNAIDS report noted the importance of strengthening health systems and the health workforce as critical in the fight against HIV/AIDS, citing the work of The Lancet Global Health Commission on High Quality Health Systems in the SDG Era which found that “health systems across the world were operating inefficiently, largely due to fragmented services that also compromise the quality of care provided. It is estimated that approximately 8.6 million deaths per year in low- and middle-income countries (including almost 300 000 among people living with HIV) could be attributed to the less-than ideal functioning of health systems.”
For 30 years, AIHA has provided technical assistance to help low- and middle-income countries build the health system and human resource capacity needed to create a strong foundation for delivering high-quality, inclusive health services – services that support universal health coverage and underpin global health security. AIHA’s comprehensive, holistic, and multi-pillar approach to health system strengthening and health workforce development has enabled us to achieve sustainable outcomes through more than 200 partnerships and initiatives in more than 40 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, Asia, South America, and the Caribbean, many of which have been in the area of HIV/AIDS prevention, care, counseling and treatment.