AIDS is one of the biggest public health challenges of our time. Since the start of the AIDS epidemic, more than 76 million people have become infected with HIV and 35 million people have died. So it is a remarkable testimony to the incredible response to HIV that we are now on a path to end AIDS by 2030.
Thanks to global solidarity, today more than half of the 36.7 million people living with HIV have access to lifesaving antiretroviral treatment, keeping them alive and well and preventing onward transmission of the virus. New HIV infections among children have been halved since 2010, and many countries well on the way to eliminating new HIV infections among children. And as we learn more about the disease and how it replicates, every day we move closer to finding a vaccine or a functional cure for HIV. But make no mistake, AIDS is not over in any part of the world and urgent action is still needed.
Children living with HIV are not getting the treatment they need. Just 43 percent of children had access to the life-saving medicines in 2016, compared to 54 percent of adults. West and Central Africa is also lagging behind on treatment with just 36 percent of adults living with HIV accessing treatment, compared to 61 percent in eastern and southern Africa.
A major concern is Eastern Europe and Central Asia which has seen an increase of 60 percent in new HIV infections since and a nearly 40 percent increase in AIDS-related deaths in the past six years. Stigma and discrimination continue to block access to health services everywhere. A recent study covering 19 countries found that one-fifth of people living with HIV avoided going to a clinic or hospital because they feared discrimination related to their HIV status.
To end AIDS, we must go further
UNAIDS is working with partners to close the gap and to get countries on the fast track to end their AIDS epidemics. Some countries are well on the way, while others still need our collective support to get them on track. Countries are committed to stepping up their efforts – increasing domestic investments and maximizing the use of every dollar available. Now is not a time to cut back – we are still $7 billion short of what is needed in 2020 to end AIDS.
The strong, bipartisan United States leadership on ending AIDS through its support to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has already saved millions of lives. The majority of the 20.9 million people on HIV treatment today owe their lives to the vision and generosity of the American people. Continued commitment of the United States will be critical.
We must be bold and we must be ambitious. Millions of lives around the world depend on the decisions and actions we take today. By standing firm and standing together, we can end AIDS.
Michel Sidibé, Executive Director, UNAIDS, [email protected]