Nations around the world are marking World Aids Day. Some events commemorate those lost to the disease, while others celebrate the progress made in fighting it.
But the United Nations says the advances are stalling, and researchers are falling behind in the goal to eradicate it.
CGTN’s Liling Tan reports.
Marina, who has been living with HIV since 2010, fled violence in the town of Zemio in the Central African Republic in 2017. But she’s now risking her life to return for antiretroviral treatment.
“Before I was strong and healthy with the treatment. Due to the violence, I had to flee too DRC. We did not have anything to eat, it was very hard. I could not take my pills. That’s when I got sick again; the viral load became very high,” she told us.
The remote, conflict-scarred town of Zemio has the highest HIV prevalence in the CAR; triple the country’s average, where young girls and sex workers are among vulnerable populations living with HIV/AIDS.
UNAIDS reports that every week around 6,000 young women aged 15 to 24 years become infected with HIV. And key populations long known for higher rates of infections – such as sex workers, intravenous drug users, men who have sex with men, and prisoners – continue to account for more than half of new infections worldwide.
And the UN’s targets for diagnoses, access to treatment, and viral suppression aren’t being met fast enough.
“We are off target in many parts of the world. For example, eastern and southern Africa which has the highest burden of the disease has done a lot of progress and they are pretty much driving the progress that we have on the response. However, other countries which have a larger key populations which are difficult to address, those are the ones that have to move forward and scale up their interventions,” Ninan Varughese, Acting Director, UNAIDS said.
Of most concern are Eastern Europe and Central Asia, which account for 95 percent of new infections.
But there is good news. The number of AIDS-related deaths have been halved since 2000, to about 770,000, the number of new infections is down, and the number of people accessing antiretroviral therapy has reached 24.5 million.
The problem is that gains over the past decades have become smaller.
“There’s a lot of complacency. The success of the AIDS response has actually led to also complacency in many parts of the world and that needs to be challenged and that needs to change in order to meet the 2030 targets,” Varughese also said.
UNAIDS says much of the power to change lies in the hands of governments, but also communities, which have been at the forefront of the HIV/Aids fight from the very beginning. And World AIDS Day, this year champions their efforts to empower those living with HIV to access information, healthcare, and lend their voices to drive HIV/AIDS policy in their countries, to help end the epidemic once and for all.
Anthony Fauci discusses the significance of World Aids Day
For more on World AIDS Day, CGTN’s Roee Ruttenberg spoke with Doctor Anthony Fauci.
He’s the Director at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the U.S. National Institutes of Health.