A report issued by the United Nations Aids Agency states that there is a very good chance that the Aids epidemic could be under control by 2030.
It stated that the number of new infections and fatalities from Aids were both declining. It has, however, called for more global effort as the current rate will not end the epidemic. Medecins Sans Frontieres, a charity, has warned that most of the people in need of HIV drugs still do not have access to them.
The report indicated that 35 million people in the world are living with HIV.
There were 2.1 million new reported cases during 2013, which was 38% less than the 3.4 million which was reported in 2001. Deaths related to Aids have decreased by 20% over the past three years and is currently at 1.5 million per year. The highest improvements have been in South Africa and Ethiopia.
There are several factors which have contributed to this improvement, including greater access to medications. There has been a 100% increase in the number of males choosing circumcision to reduce their risk of contracting and spreading HIV.
Although there has been improvement, it is not all rosy. Less than 10 people living with HIV are getting antiretroviral treatment. Only 15 countries account for 75% of all new HIV infections.
The report stated that more has been achieved in the past five years than in the previous 23 years.
It stated that there is evidence to what works and where the obstacles are and there is more hope now of the epidemic ending than there was before. However, simply continuing at the current rate will not end the epidemic.
According to the executive director of UNAids, Michel Sidibe, acceleration of treatment and awareness should be done by 2020, to try and end the epidemic by 2030. If this is not achieved, the time could be increased by another 10 years or more.
Drugs have been the main reason for the reduction in Aids deaths. It normally takes around 10 years for acquired immune deficiency syndrome (Aids) to develop. It is at this point that ‘opportunistic infection’ which can normally be fought by a healthy immune system become deadly.
However, patients who are taking antiretroviral drugs can keep the infection under control and expect a near-normal life expectancy.
Although the tools to achieve this are available, not everyone has access to them.
Around 54% of those living with HIV are unaware that they are infected and 63% are not receiving treatment. The diagnosis and treatment of the missing million, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa would reduce the annual deaths dramatically.
The medical director for Medecins Sans Frontieres’ access campaign, Dr Jennifer Cohn, said that the provision of lifesaving treatment to almost 12 million people in the developing world is a huge achievement, but more than 50% of people who need it do not have access. Eighty percent of people in Nigeria do not have access to treatment.
Dr Cohn said that it is necessary to ensure that no-one is left behind, however in many countries where MSF works, lower rates of treatment coverage are visible, particularly in areas of conflict and where low HIV is prevalent.
He said that in some countries the treatment process is started too late to save the person and pregnant women are not being offered the support they require.
Marcus Low, based at South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign, said that in South Africa there are 1000 new infections per day and it is still considered as a crisis in the country. He said that the country has done very well as regards treatment, people are living longer, but more has to be done to stop new infections.
Image Credit: Sham Hardy