Report raises hopes of finally ending Aids epidemic

New HIV infections and deaths from Aids are decreasing, the United Nations said, making it possible to control the epidemic by 2030 and eventually end it "in every region, in every country".

“More than ever before, there is hope that ending Aids is possible. However, a business-as-usual approach or simply sustaining the Aids response at its current pace cannot end the epidemic,” the UN Aids programme, UNAIDS, said in a global report issued ahead of an Aids conference in Melbourne next week.

It said the number infected with HIV was stabilising at around 35m worldwide. The epidemic had killed some 39m of the 78m people it has affected since it began in the 1980s.

“The Aids epidemic can be ended in every region, every country, in every location, in every population and every community,” Michel Sidibe, the director of UNAIDS, said in the report. “There are multiple reasons why there is hope and conviction about this goal.”

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes Aids can be transmitted via blood, breast milk and by semen during sex, but can be kept in check with cocktails of drugs known as antiretroviral therapy or ART.

UNAIDS said that at the end of 2013, some 12.9m HIV positive people had access to antiretroviral therapy — a dramatic improvement on the 10 million who were on treatment just one year earlier and the only 5 million who were getting Aids drugs in 2010.

Since 2001, new HIV infections have fallen by 38%, it said. Aids deaths have fallen 35% since a peak in 2005. “The world has witnessed extraordinary changes in the Aids landscape. There have been more achievements in the past five years than in the preceding 23 years,” the report said.

According to UNAIDS, $19.1bn was available from all sources for the Aids response in 2013, and the estimated annual need by 2015 is currently between $22bn and $24 bn. Sidibe said the international community should seize the opportunity to turn the epidemic around.

Jennifer Cohn, medical director of the access campaign for the charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), said millions of HIV positive people do not get the drugs needed.

“Providing life-saving HIV treatment to nearly 12 million people in the developing world is a significant achievement, but more than half of people in need still do not have access. We know early treatment helps prevent transmission of HIV and keeps people healthy; we need to respond to HIV in all contexts and make treatment accessible to everyone in need as soon as possible.”


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