Wednesday, December 01, 2010

World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day, and the UN has recently just issued a global report on the HIV epidemic. The 2010 UNAIDS report shows that since 1999 the overall HIV infection rate has declined almost 20 percent in 10 years. Much of that decline can be attributed to funding from donor nations, such as the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The program funds education about prevention, safe sex, and making condoms more available. Despite the progress, in 2009 more than 33 million people worldwide were living with HIV- with the biggest epidemics in sub-Saharan Africa.

One of the most important components of tackling the AIDS epidemic is providing access to universal treatment. Today, more people than ever before are receiving antiretroviral therapy, which is an approach of treatment for infections of retroviruses, like AIDS. Typically, three or four medications are taken in combination to fight the disease. Although overall access for such treatment has increased, there are substantially greater gains in some regions than in others.

In 2009, nearly 37 percent of people eligible for treatment in sub-Saharan Africa were able to access life-saving medicines. In Central and South America the number is slightly higher with approximately 42% accessing such treatment. Antiretroviral therapy coverage for children is lower than that for adults, and a low percentage of pregnant women were able to receive therapy for their own health. In addition, many key populations at higher risk received very low coverage. Access to treatment needs to be made more available for all populations.

Investing for AIDS is an essential global responsibility. It improves the lives of people living with HIV and lowers future health costs associated with the disease. In 2009, international donors and governments provided $15.9 billion for the global AIDS response. This investment has resulted in more than 5 million people receiving life-saving treatment, basic education and health care access for millions of orphans, and more tolerant social environments due to campaigns that fight the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV. Although there is still much more progress to be made, it is important to recognize what can be accomplished with the strong mobilization of the global community.

-Martina Georgieva

SOURCE: UNAIDS Global Report 2010