UNAIDS announced today that the goal of placing 15 million people on antiretroviral therapy has been met nine months ahead of schedule, with 40 percent of all people infected with HIV receiving treatment – a 22 fold increase since 2000 when the Millennium Development goals were set. HIV advocates, however, stress that treatment coverage still falls well short of the UNAIDS goal of 90 percent treatment coverage.
UNAIDS’ latest report on achieving Millennium Development Goal 6 – halting and reversing the spread of HIV – highlights the “urgent need to front-load investments and streamline programs for a five-year sprint to set the world on an irreversible path to end the AIDS epidemic by 2013.”
The report says new HIV infections have dropped by 35 percent and AIDS-related deaths by 41 percent since 2000, when 8,500 people were becoming infected daily and 4,300 people were dying of AIDS-related illnesses every day. In 2000, only one percent of people infected with HIV in low- and middle-income countries had access to treatment.
“Reaching the milestone of 15 million people on HIV treatment in developing countries is an important global accomplishment, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that more than half of the people living with HIV still do not have access to treatment,” Sharonann Lynch, HIV/TB policy advisor for Médecins Sans Frontières Access Campaign said in a statement. “We cannot afford to lose any momentum at this point and need to double the pace of treatment scale-up – every day, more people need to be put on treatment than the day before.”
The report says ramping up investments over the next five years could reduce new HIV infections by 89 percent and AIDS-related deaths by 81 percent by 2030. UNAIDS estimates that current global HIV investments need to be increased by $8-12 billion per year in order to meet the 2020 target.
“By meeting the 2020 target, the need for resources would begin to permanently decline, reducing to $29.3 billion in 2030 and far less in the future. This would produce benefits of more than $3.2 trillion that extend well beyond 2030,” UNAIDS wrote in a statement.
“In some countries where we work,” Lynch said in a statement, “HIV treatment coverage is as low as 17 percent, which stands in stark contrast to the UNAIDS goal of 90 percent treatment coverage, and much more attention needs to be paid to neglected contexts.”
Neglected contexts include scaling up treatment and services for men who have sex with men, sex workers, injection drug users, and children, the report states. Only 32 percent of the 2.6 million children living with HIV have access to treatment, the report says.
“The choice before the international community is stark,” a statement from Médecins Sans Frontières Access Campaign says. “You can curtail new HIV cases and death, or you can curtail HIV funding for developing countries – but you can’t do both.”