World AIDS Day World on track to have 30 million people on HIV treatment by 2020

Despite the progress made against HIV over the past 15 years and the availability of proven prevention and treatment methods, the annual number of new HIV infections among adults has remained static, at an estimated 1.9 million a year since 2010.

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Tomorrow is World AIDS Day where people across the world will come together under the theme Hands Up For #HIVPrevention.

The United Nations day is dedicated to exploring different aspects of HIV prevention and how they relate to specific groups of people, such as adolescent girls and young women, key populations and people living with HIV.

Leading up to the day the UNAIDs programme has released a new report called Get on the Fast-Track: the life-cycle approach to HIV. It shows that countries are getting on the Fast-Track, with an additional one million people accessing treatment in just six months (January to June 2016).

By June 2016, around 18.2 million [16.1 million–19.0 million] people had access to the life-saving medicines, including 910 000 children, double the number five years earlier. If these efforts are sustained and increased, the world will be on track to achieve the target of 30 million people on treatment by 2020.

But despite the progress made against HIV over the past 15 years and the availability of proven prevention and treatment methods, the annual number of new HIV infections among adults has remained static, at an estimated 1.9 million a year since 2010.

According to UNAIDs, there has been a resurgence of new HIV infections among key populations in some parts of the world. With funding for prevention falling behind funding for treatment, fewer than one in five people at higher risk of HIV infection today have access to prevention programmes.

UNAIDS has called for more investment in prevention. It said a quarter of all the resources required for the AIDS response in HIV prevention services would be sufficient to make possible a range of prevention programmes, including condom programmes, pre-exposure prophylaxis, voluntary medical male circumcision, harm reduction, programmes to empower young women and girls, and mobilizing and providing essential service packages for and with key populations.

The UN Global statistics on HIV show

  • 18.2 million [16.1 million–19.0 million] people were accessing antiretroviral therapy (June 2016)
  • 36.7 million [34.0 million–39.8 million] people globally were living with HIV (end 2015)
  • 2.1 million [1.8 million–2.4 million] people became newly infected with HIV (end 2015)
  • 1.1 million [940 000–1.3 million] people died from AIDS-related illnesses (end 2015)
  • 78 million [69.5 million–87.6 million] people have become infected with HIV since the start of the epidemic (end 2015)
  • 35 million [29.6 million–40.8 million] people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic (end 2015)

People living with HIV

  • In 2015, there were 36.7 million [34.0 million–39.8 million] people living with HIV.
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Ghana's HIV AIDS battle

The Get on the Fast-Trackreport highlighted Ghana, in particular the HIV risk young people face due to lower knowledge of risks or lower ability to mitigate those risks compared with their older, more experienced counterparts.

A study quoted in the report found that in Kumasi, sex workers aged 18–20 years expressed accurate knowledge of HIV and intentions to consistently use condoms with clients; however, factors such as higher payments, drug and alcohol use, fear of violence and police harassment interrupted these intentions.

Ghana has been long waging a war on HIV, through its National HIV Response programme and has seen consistent declining trends in adult prevalence of HIV over a 10 year period, Dr Angela El-Adas, Director-General of the Ghana AIDS Commission,said at a conference last year.

This month, the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) signed an Aide Memoire with its development partners to help fuel the implementation of the HIV and AIDS preventive strategic plan dubbed: “90-90-90.”

The five-year strategic plan seeks to ensure that, by 2020, about 90 per cent of HIV infected persons would know their HIV status and receive sustained antiretroviral therapy to help them achieve viral suppression, GNA reports.

Dr Angela El-Adas, the Director General of the GAC said the organisation would continue to mobilise funds from international and internal sources to accelerate the effectiveness of the plan to help safeguard the lives of people.

“We believe the recommendations need to be urgently implemented in 2017 in the country’s quest towards the implementation of the plan’s targets,” Dr El-Adas said.

She expressed confidence in the memoire, saying the Commission and its development partners could make progress under the direction of a streamlined Board, which emanated from the passage of the Ghana AIDS Commission Bill (2015), the GNA reports.

The Bill also seeks to spearhead the establishment of an HIV and AIDS national fund geared to finance all HIV and AIDS preventive projects.

Mr Haile Girmay, the Country Director UNAIDS and JUTA Coordinator urged Ghana to work towards eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV by closing the gap of new infections among children to zero from its current 150,000 in 2015.

In a global message for World AIDS Day, Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations reiterated the need to focus on prevention, noting young women are particularly at risk of becoming infected with HIV.

“We know that for girls in sub-Saharan Africa, the transition to adulthood is a particularly dangerous time. Young women are facing a triple threat: a high risk of HIV infection, low rates of HIV testing and poor adherence to HIV treatment.”

Co-infections of people living with HIV, such as tuberculosis (TB), cervical cancer and hepatitis C, are at risk of putting the 2020 target of fewer than 500 000 AIDS-related deaths out of reach.

TB caused about a third of AIDS-related deaths in 2015, while women living with HIV are at four to five times greater risk of developing cervical cancer. Taking AIDS out of isolation remains an imperative if the world is to reach the 2020 target, he said.

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