Some 650,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses last year, one every minute, and while the figure is slightly lower than in 2022, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) warned that the fight against the scourge is weakening.
UNAIDS’s executive director, Ugandan Winnie Byanyima, said that “the new data is terrifying. Progress has been hesitant, resources have diminished and inequalities have increased” since in some regions of the world the figures were higher than those of the previous year.
“Insufficient investment and action are putting us all at risk: we face millions of deaths and millions of new infections if we continue on our current trajectory,” Byanyima said.
Precisely “In danger” (In danger) UNAIDS entitled the report presented on the eve of the 24th International Conference on AIDS, which begins this Friday 29th in person and virtually in this city.
One and a half million people contracted the human immunodeficiency virus in 2021 and at the end of the year, 38.4 million were living with HIV.
The study notes that the covid-19 pandemic and other global crises have weakened progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and the decrease of just 3.6% in new infections, between 2020 and 2021, was the smallest annual decline since 2016.
That decline is also uneven across regions, with Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Latin America all experiencing rising infections for several years.
In Latin America, there are 2.2 million seropositive, and in 2021 new infections were 110,000 and AIDS-related deaths 29,000.
In Asia and the Pacific, the world’s most populous region, new infections are rising in corners where they had started to decline, and in eastern and southern Africa the rapid gains of previous years slowed in 2021.
The countries with the largest increase in new infections since 2015 were Congo, the Philippines, Madagascar and South Sudan, while India, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania had significant reductions in the number of infections.
“The new data is terrifying. Progress has been faltering, resources have dwindled, and inequalities have increased. Insufficient investment and action is putting us all at risk: we face millions of deaths and millions of new infections if we continue on the current trajectory” – Winnie Byanyima.
Among the positive data, UNAIDS noted notable declines in new infections in West and Central Africa and the Caribbean, but even in these regions, the response to HIV is threatened by a cut in resources.
The data “shows that the global AIDS response is in serious jeopardy. The fact that we are not making rapid progress means that we are losing ground, as the pandemic thrives by taking advantage of covid-19, mass displacement and other crises,” Byanyima stressed.
The report indicated that women and adolescents were the population group most affected by infections in 2021, with a new infection every two minutes.
The growth of HIV among young African women and girls coincided with the disruption of HIV treatment and prevention services, with millions of girls out of school due to the pandemic, and rising adolescent pregnancies, and gender violence.
Teenage girls and young women are three times more likely to be infected in sub-Saharan Africa than teenage boys and young men.
The report also shows that access to antiretroviral treatment for all people living with HIV is failing, growing more slowly in 2021 than it has in a decade.
Although three-quarters of all people living with HIV have access to antiretroviral treatment, there are still ten million people who do not, and only 52% of the 1.7 million children with the disease have access to it. medications that can save their lives.
Mary Mahy, head of statistics for UNAIDS, reported that “in 2021 there were 160,000 infections in children, and 75,000 of them were due to the mother not being able to access the necessary therapy during pregnancy or breastfeeding.”
If the current rate continues, the number of new infections per year will exceed 1.2 million in 2025, the year in which the Member States of the United Nations set a goal of less than 370,000 new infections.
In addition, many high-income countries are cutting their aid. Last year, international resources available for HIV were $21.4 billion, which was six per cent lower than in 2010.
Development aid for HIV from bilateral donors, apart from the United States, has plummeted by 57% in the last decade. The HIV response in low- and middle-income countries is $8 billion short of the amount needed by 2025.
In Montreal, it was also announced that in the search to further facilitate access to diagnostic tests, the World Health Organization (WHO) prequalified a home test that will cost only one dollar and will be made available to the public sector in the low and middle-income countries.
“We can end AIDS by 2030 as we promised,” Byanyima said, “but it takes courage.”
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