HIV/Aids

Updated 31 May 2016

More ART coverage in Africa but HIV prevention lags behind

The scale-up of antiretroviral treatment since 2010 has markedly reduced Aids-related deaths, but more attention should be given to the prevention of HIV infection.

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Around 17 million people were taking antiretroviral medicine by the end of 2015, and South Africa still has the largest treatment programme in the world serving 3,4 million people.

Scale-up of antiretroviral treatment

This was announced today (31 May) by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAIDS), ahead of next week’s United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS in New York.

Over 2015, an additional two million people got access to ARVs according to the UNAIDS report, Global Aids update 2016.

“The extraordinary scale-up of antiretroviral treatment since 2010 by many of the world’s most affected countries has reduced Aids-related deaths from 1.5 million in 2010  to 1.1 million in 2015,” according to UNAIDS.

Read: ARVs now for anyone with HIV - Motsoaledi

“The full potential of antiretroviral therapy is being realised,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “I urge all countries to seize this unprecedented opportunity to put HIV prevention and treatment programmes on the Fast-Track and end the Aids epidemic by 2030.”

Global coverage of antiretroviral therapy reached 46% of those who need it at the end of 2015. Gains were greatest in the world’s most affected region, eastern and southern Africa, where coverage has more than doubled in the past five years, going from 24% in 2010 to 54% in 2015, reaching a total of 10.3 million people.

UNAIDS Fast-Track approach

“In South Africa, 3.4 million people had access to treatment, followed by Kenya with nearly 900 000. Botswana, Eritrea, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe all increased treatment coverage by more than 25 percentage points between 2010 and 2015,” according to the report, which was launched in Nairobi.

“The Kenyan government, in partnership with UNAIDS and other development partners, is committed to the Fast-Track approach to ending Aids as a public health threat by 2030,” said Cleopa Mailu, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Health.

Read: The sooner you're on ARVs the better

“We must catalyse investments across different sectors, with a focus on cost-effective and socially inclusive programmes, if we are to succeed.”      

The UNAIDS Fast-Track approach to treatment is proven to work in countries adopting it. The momentum must continue to achieve the UNAIDS 90–90–90 treatment target by 2020, whereby 90% of people living with HIV know their status, 90% of people who know their HIV-positive status are accessing treatment and 90% of people on treatment have suppressed viral loads.

Reaching the 2020 treatment target will set the world on course to end the Aids epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Many people not being reached

However, the UNAIDS report shows that little progress is being made to prevent new infections, which stand at 1,9 million people a year.

The largest reduction in new adult infections was a mere four percent reduction over five years, and occurred in eastern and southern Africa.

Read: WHO guidelines recommend early ARVs for all with HIV

However, the annual number of new HIV infections in eastern Europe and central Asia increased by 57%.   

In the report, UNAIDS urges countries to continue to scale up HIV prevention efforts while continuing to roll out treatment, since many people are still not being reached.

Young people and adolescents, especially young women and girls, are still being left behind in the Aids response. In sub-Saharan Africa, adolescent girls and young women 15–24 years old account for 25% new HIV infections.

The report urges countries to work closely with partners, particularly civil society, communities and people living with HIV, to ensure that they know where their epidemics are concentrated and that they have the right services in the right places. 

“We need a people-centred response to the Aids epidemic that removes all obstacles in the path of people’s access to HIV prevention and treatment services,” said Sidibé. “These services must be fully funded and appropriate to people’s needs so that we can end the Aids epidemic for everybody.” – Health-e News.

Read more:

Causes of HIV/Aids

Risk factors for HIV infection

Symptoms of HIV/Aids

Health-e News is South Africa’s award-winning dedicated health news service producing news and in-depth analysis for the country’s print and television media.

 

Ask the Expert

HIV/Aids expert

Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria before working for an HIV/AIDS NPO in Soweto for many years. She was named one of the Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2012.

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