GENEVA – A new report released by UNAIDS ahead of World AIDS Day on December 1 shows that the involvement of people affected by HIV in decision-making has reduced new infections and helped more people gain access to treatment.
The report, which was launched in Kenya on Wednesday by the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Ms Winnie Byanyima, shows that significant progress has been made, particularly in expanding access to treatment.
The report shows that as of mid-2019, an estimated 24.5 million of the 37.9 million people living with HIV were accessing treatment. As treatment roll-out continues, fewer people are dying of AIDS-related illnesses, the report adds.
“When people and communities have power and agency, change happens,” said Ms Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS.
“The solidarity of women, young people, gay men and other men who have sex with men, sex workers, people who use drugs and transgender people has transformed the AIDS epidemic—empowering them will end the epidemic,” she added.
“The partnership between government and civil society, together with the meaningful involvement of communities, has allowed us to significantly reduce new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths,” said Sicily Kariuki, Cabinet Secretary for Health in Kenya. “Communities are the very centre of the AIDS response and are critical to ending AIDS.”
Progress in reducing HIV infections, however, is mixed and 1.7 million people were newly infected with the virus in 2018. New HIV infections declined by 28% from 2010 to 2018 in eastern and southern Africa, the region most affected by HIV. In a promising sign, the incidence rate of HIV among adolescent girls and young women aged between 15 and 24 years in the region declined from 0.8% in 2010 to 0.5% in 2018, a 42% decline. However, young women and girls still bear the brunt of new HIV infections—four out of five new HIV infections among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa are among girls.
Outside of eastern and southern Africa, new HIV infections have declined by only 4% since 2010. Of increasing concern is the rise of new HIV infections in some regions. The annual number of new HIV infections rose by 29% in Eastern Europe and central Asia, by 10% in the Middle East and North Africa and by 7% in Latin America.
“In many parts of the world, significant progress has been made in reducing new HIV infections, reducing AIDS-related deaths and reducing discrimination, especially in eastern and southern Africa, but gender inequality and denial of human rights are leaving many people behind,” said Ms Byanyima. “Social injustices, inequality, denial of citizenship rights and stigma and discrimination are holding back progress against HIV and the Sustainable Development Goals.” Power together The report shows that when people and communities have power and agency, change happens. Communities have put rights-based, people-centred principles at the heart of HIV programmes, ensuring that AIDS responses tackle the inequalities and injustices that fuel the epidemic.