A report issued on the eve of an international AIDS conference in Mexico finds progress in combating the global HIV/AIDS epidemic is receding. The joint U.N. program on HIV/AIDS, known as UNAIDS, warns the pace of progress in reducing new HIV infections is slowing because nations lack the political will needed to end this scourge.
UNAIDS latest global update finds 1.7 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2018 and 770,000 died of AIDS-related illnesses. The report finds more than 23 million people are receiving anti-retroviral treatment, but another 15 million are still not receiving this life-saving treatment.
UNAIDS Acting Executive Director Gunilla Carlsson says the report for the first time shows key populations and their sexual partners account for more than half of all new HIV infections. She notes up to 54 percent of new infections is being spread by sex workers, drug users, men having sex with men, transgenders and prisoners.
She tells VOA these key populations suffer from stigma and discrimination. Consequently, she says they are not being reached at the scale needed to stop transmission of HIV.
“The risk of those people being left behind and not being treated in a proper manner with access not only to rights, but also to treatment and care–if we cannot talk about that, we will not solve this. We see in special regions then where this is extra-noticeable,” Carlsson said.
Carlsson says new infections have risen by 29 percent since 2010 in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. During the same period, HIV infections have risen by 10 percent in the Middle-East and North Africa.
She says the global HIV/AIDS map shows a mixed picture. She says some progress has been made in Western Europe and North America, though the number of new infections and deaths there remains unacceptably high.
As in the past, the report finds the majority of people living with HIV and new infections is in Eastern and Southern Africa. However, it notes interventions in heavily-affected South Africa have succeeded in reducing HIV infections by 40 percent.
Carlsson warns efforts to bring an end to the HIV/AIDS epidemic will fail without adequate funding. She says available resources to respond to AIDS has fallen by nearly $1 billion. Furthermore, she notes the UNAIDS program is more than $7 billion short of the estimated $26.2 billion needed by 2020.