By 2030, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to have ended the epidemic of AIDS. Concern’s Global Health & HIV Adviser, Breda Gahan, reflects on progress made in the last 15 years in relation to this goal – and on the massive task that still remains ahead.
To set the context of this blog, here are some stark global facts from UNAIDS relating to 2014:
- 36.9 million people were living with HIV
- Over 2 million people in total died from HIV related illnesses
- Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 66% of the global total of new HIV infections
Worldwide, AIDS-related illnesses are still the primary cause of death among women of reproductive age and, in 2014, 62% of new HIV infections among 15–19 year olds were among young women and girls.
People living with HIV who have not been diagnosed, and those who are not on effective antiretroviral treatment (ART), are more vulnerable to other diseases including TB and malaria. These diseases will kill them more quickly than people whose immune systems are not compromised by the negative effects of HIV. Without treatment, most people living with HIV develop AIDS and die.
In 2000, the UN agreed on eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG) which would address world poverty in all its many forms by 2015. Goal six aimed to “combat HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases”. Despite the scale of the problem of HIV and AIDS globally, there have been encouraging steps forward: there has been a 35% decrease in new HIV infections since 2000, and a 42% decrease in AIDS-related deaths since the peak in 2004.
Antiretroviral treatment is reaching more people than ever before, and HIV treatment is working where it is effectively delivered and people comply with the regimen.Despite this progress, however, there is no room for complacency in relation to this goal. Many countries in which malaria and TB are endemic still don’t provide universal life-saving prevention and treatment interventions. There is also a massive HIV treatment gap.
Of the total number of people infected with HIV today, only 41% of the adults – and 32% of the children – have access to treatment. The right to life and health is not being realised for adults and children living with HIV who have yet to access treatment. Prevention services for malaria, TB and HIV are inadequate everywhere.