Health Care

More than half of HIV population on treatment: UNAIDS

The challenges now are to ensure that the rest almost 16 million people in need of treatment, including 919,000 children, can access the medicines, and to put HIV prevention back at the top of public health programs particularly in countries where new HIV infections are rising.

In 2000, just 685,000 people living with HIV had access to antiretroviral therapy; by June 2017, around 20.9 million people of the 36.7 million globally living with HIV had access to the life-saving medicines, according to the latest UNAIDS report, Right to Health, launched ahead of World AIDS Day.

Mr. Sidibé cited South Africa as an example of a dramatic scale-up of HIV treatment, saying that while in 2000, the country had 90 people on treatment, today, there are more than four million.

"We insist that UNAIDS and countries need to formally audit the number of people on treatment".

One challenge is to ensure 17.1 million people, including 1.2 million children, have access to HIV treatment, especially in the countries where new HIV infections are rising. As treatment access has increased for pregnant women living with HIV, new infections among children have been rapidly reduced by nearly half worldwide, according to UNAIDS.

Research also shows that people with HIV who adhere to antiretroviral treatment are up to 97 percent less likely to transmit the AIDS-causing virus to others.

From 2010 to 2016, new HIV infections among children were reduced by 56% in eastern and southern Africa after authorities upscaled treatment access for infected pregnant women.

"In the next six years South Africa is going to save 11 billion rand ($783 million) on HIV/AIDS treatment, meaning that we are going to treat more people with the same amount of resources", he said.

Another challenge is to make HIV prevention a public health priority again, particularly in nations with rising HIV infection rates. "Highlighting overly optimistic, inflated, inaccurate numbers will lead the world not just to complacency, but to a false sense that we are approaching the end of AIDS and full control of HIV, when in fact, UNAIDS may be failing to highlight unsafe gaps".

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