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Funding, Not Technology, Hampering Programs to End AIDS Epidemic by 2030

DEC 20, 2016 | EINAV KEET
In 2014, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) set an ambitious goal to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. With progressive targets set for 2020, the organization recently held a meeting in which members joined public health officials in calling for more funding and targeted resources to reach what they say are achievable goals.

At the end of 2015, there were more than 36 million people living with HIV worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). An estimated 1.1 million people died from HIV-related causes and 2.1 million people became newly infected with the virus in 2015 as well. Despite those staggering numbers, the statistics have improved for individuals infected with HIV: new infections have fallen by 35% since 2000, and a drop in related deaths has saved 8 million lives.

With improvements in prevention efforts, testing, and treatments over the last three decades, UNAIDS released its Fast-Track initiative more than two years ago, saying that the tools exist to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. The plan focuses on scaling up the resources currently available thanks to scientific breakthroughs, noting that even though HIV infections may not cease to exist, AIDS can be eliminated as a global health threat. Without this scale-up, the UNAIDS report noted that the AIDS epidemic will continue to outpace the public health response. With the scale-up, the plan projects that 21 million AIDS-related deaths and 28 million HIV infections—including almost 6 million infections among children—can be prevented. To stay on target, the initiative aims to hit its “90-90-90” targets—for 90% of people living with HIV to know their HIV status, for 90% of people who know their status to receive treatment, and for 90% of people on HIV treatment to have a suppressed viral load so they are no longer infectious—by 2020.

At a recent meeting, the UNAIDS board noted that in 2016, access to antiretroviral drugs expanded to more than 18 million people with HIV and that more countries have adopted Fast-Track plans. However, emerging global challenges are threatening the success of Fast-Track, and the program is facing a funding deficit. “It is essential that countries continue to have access to long-term, predictable and sustainable resources,” said Michel Sidibé Executive Director of UNAIDS, in a recent press statement. “If this is not the case, they will not be able to sustain and accelerate their responses to HIV and there could be a rebound of the AIDS epidemic in the coming years.”

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