By Alfred Koroma
In a new report released on Thursday, UNAIDS, the agency dedicated to ending the epidemic said there is a clear path to ends AIDS and the path will help tackle future pandemics and advance progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
The report, titled ‘The Path that Ends AIDS’, contains data and case studies that says ending AIDS requires a strong ‘political and financial choice.’
HIV and AIDS remains a major public health challenge globally, having killed about 40.4 million people while over 30 million continue to live with the virus worldwide, according to 2022 WHO data.
Leaders have the opportunity to save millions of lives and be “remembered by future generations” as those who put a stop to the world’s deadliest pandemic. They could save millions of lives and protect the health of everyone. They could show what leadership can do, says UNAID Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima.
According to WHO, African Region remains most severely affected, accounting for more than two-thirds of the people living with HIV worldwide. The region’s women and girls suffer, especially in sub-Saharan Africa suffer severely with around 4,000 of them becoming infected with HIV each week in 2022.
No cure is available for HIV infection. But access to effective HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care could manage the health condition and people with the virus could live long.
But UNAID reports says countries and leaders who are already following the path that ends AIDS are achieving extraordinary results.
For example, countries like Botswana, Eswatini, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe have already achieved what is known as the “95-95-95” targets. That means, 95 per cent of the people who are living with HIV know their status, 95 percent of those who know that they are living with HIV are on lifesaving antiretroviral treatment, and 95 percent of people in treatment are virally suppressed.
There is an opportunity now to end AIDS by increasing political will by investing in a sustainable response to HIV through financing what matters most: evidence-based HIV prevention and treatment, health systems integration, non- discriminatory laws, gender equality, and empowered community networks, the UNAIDS says
According to the report, progress has been strongest in the countries and regions that have the most financial investments, such as in eastern and southern Africa where new HIV infections have been reduced by 57% since 2010, the UN agency reports.
There is also an increase in the number of people on antiretroviral treatment worldwide, from 7.7 million in 2010 to 29.8 million in 2022.
However, the agency said there is still a long way to meet the aspiration of ending AIDS by 2030. AIDS claimed a life every minute last year and about 9.2 million people still miss out on treatment, including 660,000 children living with HIV.
Funding for the deadly disease also declined in 2022 from both international and domestic sources, falling back to the same level as in 2013, UN said. Funding amounted to US$ 20.8 billion in 2022, far short of the US$ 29.3 billion needed by 2025.
“We are hopeful but it is not the relaxed optimism that might come if all was heading as it should be”, said Ms. Byanyima. “It is, instead, a hope rooted in seeing the opportunity for success, an opportunity that is dependent on action”.
“The facts and figures shared in this report do not show that as a world we are already on the path, they show that we can be. The way is clear, ” she noted.