Ahead of World AIDS Day on 01 December, UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on Aids and HIV, has released a report stating that ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 is an achievable target.
With an estimated 36.9 million people in the world living with HIV, and only 41 percent of adults and 32 percent of children receiving treatment, the challenges to obliterating the epidemic are truly daunting. Nevertheless, in its report titled, ‘Focus on Location and Population’, UNAIDS cites scores of examples from across the world to point out that if all countries adopt the Fast-Track Strategy and focus on people accessing the right services delivered in the right places, it was possible to end AIDS by 2030.
The Fast-Track Strategy requires cities, towns and communities to take charge of their HIV responses by analyzing the nature of their epidemic and then using a location-population approach to focus their resources through efficient programs in the geographical areas and among the populations in most need.
The report estimates there are now 15.8 million people with HIV receiving antiretroviral therapy, double the number from 5 years ago. In 2010, the number of people receiving HIV treatment was around 7.5 million, compared to 2.2 million in 2005. Also, by the end of 2014, new HIV infections dropped to 35 percent below the peak reached in 2000, while AIDS-related deaths fell by 42 percent since the peak in 2004.
Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS, says: "Every 5 years we have more than doubled the number of people on life-saving treatment. We need to do it just one more time to break the AIDS epidemic and keep it from rebounding."
The Fast-Track approach will help attain specific targets for 2030, such as averting 21 million AIDS-related deaths, 28 million new HIV infections and 5.9 million new infections among children, said the director.
The report states that the Fast-Track approach will also be instrumental in attaining the UNAIDS 90-90-90 treatment target, which calls for ensuring that 90 percent of people living with HIV should know their HIV status; 90 percent of them should be receiving treatment and 90 percent of those on treatment should have suppressed viral loads (very low levels of HIV in the body) by the year 2020.
However, it also emphasizes the importance of delivering services in a way that is consistent with human rights and applies safeguards to ensure that reaching out to people living with HIV does no harm. The report notes that in some countries, progress in eliminating HIV/AIDS is hampered by "pervasive punitive laws and strongly held cultural values against key populations," and reforming them "remains one of the single most important elements of efforts to increase access and uptake of HIV programs and services."