World losing fight against AIDS warns experts

A nurse hands out a red ribbon to a woman, to mark World Aids Day, at the entrance of Emilio Ribas Hospital, in Sao Paulo on 1 December 2014
A nurse hands out a red ribbon to a woman, to mark World Aids Day, at the entrance of Emilio Ribas Hospital, in Sao Paulo on 1 December 2014 REUTERS/Nacho Doce

The International Aids Conference in South Africa might have ended last week, but activists and experts are warning the international community that the world is losing the fight against Aids.


The United Nations has so far set a target of 2030 to eradicate the disease, but in an interview published today by British newspaper The Guardian, Peter Piot, the first executive director of UNAIDS... warned that that goal will be hard to reach. RFI takes a look at the topic.

Is the world really losing the fight against AIDS?

That's a tough question, but it does look like the death toll, still at 1.5 million people a year, could begin to rise again. It also appears that some 2.5 million people are still becoming infected with HIV every year.

This means the number of new infections have plateaued after a steep dip from the peak rate of 3.3 million in 1997.

“We agree that reaching a goal of less than 500.000 new infections by 2020 is completely unreachable,” says Gitau Mburu, a senior advisor with the International Aids/HIV alliance. “The reason why, is that there’s not enough investment and efforts going to HIV prevention. Part of the reason for that we have seen reduction in the amount of funding.”

Is funding really decreasing?

Absolutely, a recent study by UNAIDS said there had been a billion dollar drop in donor government funding from 8.6 billion in 2014 to 7.5 billion last year.

Another study, released by the Global AIDS Fund, warned of 21 million preventable Aids deaths and 28 million new HIV infections over the next six years it did not get 13 billion dollars.

There's also a sense amongst activists and scientists that people and world people fail to see Aids as a threat now.

But among the 37 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS, only 17 million are currently receiving treatment.

Is this problem a worldwide issue?

While most new cases are located in Sub-Saharan Africa, some countries, especially in Eastern and Central Europe, have seen a rise in infections. Some groups of population, including gay men, sex workers and drug users are more at risk of becoming infected.

“The groups affected by the HIV epidemic, including in Europe, are generally stigmatized and marginalised,” says Gitau Mburu. “We need to do more that we reach those groups. For example, drug users and sex workers are often not very well treated and viewed by the general population. We need to do better. Stigma needs to be addressed more directly.”

Could drug resistance of the HIV become an issue?

It is already an issue. A report published by the World Health Organisation, says there is a 40% resistance to one of the crucial drugs given to people in less developed countries. According to the Guardian, NGO Médecins Sans Frontières says 10% of the people it treats are drug resistant.

“If everyone is treated very effectively, then the risk of drug resistance developing is low,” says Deenan Pillay, a professor of Virology, and Director of the Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies.

“But in reality, we have a number of things that get in the way of this. First of all, people don’t take all their drugs, all the time, exactly when they’re meant to, throughout their lives. The second thing is that in many areas of the world, the supply chain needs to be maintained. Those, as we call them, stock out risk leading to drug resistance. Now, when it develops, it means that individual progresses in its own disease, but he can also transmit it to others.”

Dealing with this is actually possible: in Europe and North America, people are moved on to newer drug combinations. But those are more expensive, and often not available in less developed countries.

Which bring us to our first point: the lack of funding in the fight against AIDS.


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